United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley announced today it is expanding its highly-successful Summer Learning Collaborative to 14 cities and towns serving over 3,000 elementary school-age children in the region. United Way’s Summer Learning Collaborative kicked off this month in several Boston neighborhoods, Lynn, Cambridge, Revere, Winthrop, Salem, Peabody, Somerville, Lowell, and Lawrence – and for the first time is expanding to four new communities: Beverly, Chelsea, Dedham and Waltham.
Evaluation data shows that last year, 82% of children participating in United Way’s Summer Learning Collaborative avoided summer learning loss. What’s more, 65% of participating children gained literacy skills and 70% of children advanced from the lowest reading level.
“Learning should never take a summer vacation,” said Michael K. Durkin, president at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “We are turning summer time into learning time for children who might otherwise fall further behind over the next few months. We’re proud to be able to expand this successful summer learning program to even more communities.”
Research shows that over the course of one summer vacation, summer learning loss can create an approximate three-month achievement gap in reading skills among children who are not exposed to summer enrichment programs. By middle school, this gap can grow up to two years. In partnership with BOSTnet, the program is funded through individual donations, along with funding from Boston Financial Data Services, Epsilon, UPS and United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council.
In partnership with 27 community-based summer program sites across the region serving low-income youth, United Way’s Summer Learning Collaborative integrates fun and engaging literacy activities into the daily schedule.
“Outdoor exploration and experiential learning are wonderful ways to open young minds for learning,” says Deborah Kneeland Keegan, Executive Director of For Kids Only Afterschool, which operates after-school and summer programs in seven school districts north of Boston. “Upper- and middle income children have enrichment opportunities that low-income children, whose families who are struggling to put food on the table, don’t get to experience.”
Keegan adds that the school principals her organization works with now identify and refer students who they know will experience that summer slide if they don’t connect them to their program. “When the kids come back to school in the fall, they are ready to learn,” says Keegan. “The teachers see that.”
In addition to BOSTnet and For Kids Only Afterschool, community partners include Beverly Children’s Learning Center, Camp Fire North Shore, Community Teamwork Inc., East Boston Social Centers, East End House, Ellis Memorial, Girls Inc. in Lynn, Girls Inc. Lowell, Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Gregg House, Merrimack Valley YMCA, Somerville YMCA, Waltham Boys and Girls Club, YMCA of Greater Boston and YWCA of Greater Lawrence.