Dr. Stephen Sills (Center for Housing and Community Studies) received new funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation for the project “CHCS Cottage Gardens Resource Center – Afterschool Reading Enrichment Program.” Dr. Kenneth Gruber is co-principal investigator on the project.
The low socio-economic status in the Cottage Grove neighborhood has resulted in a cycle of poverty, perpetuated by poor academic achievement. Only 17% of third grade students were reading on grade level in 2017 (EOG scores, Hampton Elementary, Guilford County Schools). Accordingly, if a student is not at reading level by the third grade, it becomes increasingly difficult to “catch up” with their peers, putting the student at a significant disadvantage for the remainder of their schooling and on to their professional careers and social development (GCS, 2009).
The effects of poor literacy skills can have a ripple effect across the life course. According to a study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there is a connection between adverse life conditions and poor reading and writing skills (2019). Approximately 75% of school high school dropouts and at least 50% of youth with justice-involvement report some degree of reading difficulty.
The UNCG Center for Housing and Community Studies (CHCS) Cottage Gardens Resource Center (CGRC) opened in June 2019 in a low-income apartment complex in the center of the Cottage Grove neighborhood. The CGRC offers a nursing clinic and counseling outreach, as well as a children’s after-school educational, enrichment, and entertainment (aka, E3 program) three days a week throughout the year for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade.
Drawing upon best practices from the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NREL) and the National Center for Quality Afterschool (NCQA), the researchers are further advancing their efforts to promote an engaging and high-quality literacy program to raise reading achievement. Targeted after-school programs have been found to be a good venue for literacy programming as they provide an environment that respects the local community’s interests, validates neighborhood voices, affirms existing social connections, and celebrates a community’s unique culture (Halpern, 2003).
Their program will include: a daily 30 minute read-a-loud time led by student workers from education and human development majors, grouped by reading skills, and designed to “model fluent and expressive reading, and to build important literacy skills such as comprehension” (NCQA); one-on-one university and community volunteer reading pals to practice fluency (NREL); a monthly “readers’ theater” for greater comprehension through dramatization of stories (NCQA & NREL) led by our AmeriCorps worker; and quarterly library field trips and family literacy events for greater community engagement around reading (NREL) supervised by CHCS staff.