Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children
Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

For the fourth year in a row, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) has honored communities for being “Pacesetters” that promote early literacy among children from low-income families.

Thirty-eight communities earned this honor, including Springfield, Mass.

A CGLR press release explains that these communities lead by example as they “solve one or more of the challenges that can undermine early literacy – school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.”

“Pacesetters are part of a nationwide network of more than 240 Campaign communities, representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 2,100 local organizations (including 130 United Ways and 250 state and local funders). The Campaign communities are dedicated to narrowing the achievement gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers.”

Ralph Smith, CGLR’s managing director, adds, “We are very proud of these communities and the numerous organizations and individuals behind them for joining forces and working tirelessly to uplift children and families. They remind us that we are seeing great progress and real results all across the country.”

For Springfield being a Pacesetter means making a team effort that unites, parents, educators, nonprofits, the Springfield City Library, an impressive corps of volunteers, and even the local housing authority. The city was also awarded a federal Preschool Expansion grant.

“What is really powerful in Springfield is that we are learning every day how to work together and work more effectively toward the shared goal of reading proficiency for all our third graders,” Sally Fuller told us this week. Fuller is the project director for Reading Success by Fourth Grade, part of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.

Fuller adds, “We are ‘relentless incrementalists’ (to steal a phrase), making progress by learning how programs are designed to make the impact that changes outcomes for children. We have a community that truly cares about giving its children a foundation for success, and all the partners have come together to make it happen….slowly but steadily.”

Some of Springfield’s recent efforts are engaging and fun.

Through a program called 413 Families (named after the western Massachusetts area code) parents can sign up to receive informative texts about learning, health and wellness, and creative things to do with children. Public television station WGBY has a promotional video about the program on its Facebook page.

There’s also a social media campaign that asks parents to take pictures of themselves reading to their children and post it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the hashtag.

To energize families, the Davis Foundation and Home City Families, a Springfield Public Schools program, are co-sponsoring a series of “READY! For Kindergarten” workshops for parents whose children are 5 or younger. The workshops are “focused on young children’s language and literacy, math and reasoning, and social emotional skills. Parents take home materials, ideas, activities and tools (age-appropriate toys, books and puzzles) to enjoy every day with their children.”

To learn more and register, call 413-886-5158. The schedule is:

March 10, 4 – 6 p.m. at Edward P. Boland School

March 15, 4 – 6 p.m. at Early childhood Education Center (15 Catharine Street, Springfield)

March 17, 4 – 6 p.m. at Sumner Avenue School

March 24, 4 – 6 p.m. at Margaret C. Ells School

Among the other communities that were named Pacesetters are New England neighbors Hartford and New Britain, both in Connecticut.

All the Pacesetter communities will be honored at CGLR’s 2016 Funder-to-Funder Huddle, which will be be held in Washington, D.C., April 7-8, 2016.

“If we’re going to close the achievement gap, we need mobilized communities – like these Pacesetters – working with schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and parents to focus on third-grade reading,” CGLR’s Ralph Smith says. “These Pacesetter communities inspire us to believe that great things can happen when all of us support parents, care providers and educators as they work to ensure more hopeful futures for our children.”