Saturday July 7, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- As part of the Pittsfield Promise communitywide early literacy initiative, 15 local organizations are supporting summer learning opportunities accessible to all children and families across the city.

Van Shields, executive director of the Berkshire Museum, and Ron Latham, director of the Berkshire Athenaeum, have organized the summer programs.

"I have been with the library system since 1992, and we have always offered summer reading programs, but this is the first time we have teamed up with other groups to promote summer learning citywide," said Latham.

He and Shields hope this helps schools’ efforts to prevent the so-called "summer slide."

"School teachers work hard all year to advance student learning, but often spend a month in the fall re-teaching material students have forgotten during the summer. As a community, we need to maintain strong learning opportunities and provide reminders about the importance of reading all year long," said Shields.

A report from the National Summer Learning Association indicates that the amount of instructional time lost during the summer months is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year, and can be even more pronounced among low-income families.

Summer activities include:

n "Word of the Day" -- The Pittsfield Public School system maintains a list of words recommended for mastery by young readers. Pittsfield Promise has created a calendar with a word and definition for each day between the last day of school and first day back. These calendars will be on prominent display throughout the city and promoted via social media, bulletin boards, and storefronts.

n Story Walks -- The Berkshire Athenaeum is making available children’s books broken down into posters for children and parents to read while walking. The Early Childhood Education Think Tank created the materials and is promoting their use in public venues throughout the summer. Anyone planning an event or public gathering may contact the Berkshire Athenaeum to check out a Story Walk.

n Recommended reading list -- The 15 participants in the Summer Learning initiative will post books recommended for young readers and make books available in their venues.

For more information about participating in Pittsfield Promise summer learning initiatives should visit www.berkshireunitedway.org or call (413) 442-5050. Pittsfield Promise summer reading partners:

Berkshire Museum

Berkshire Athenaeum

Pittsfield YMCA

Hancock Shaker Village

Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center

CYC

Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club

Kids 4 Harmony (Berkshire Children & Families)

Berkshire Health Systems

United Cerebral Palsy

Group Restoration

Berkshire United Way

Berkshire Priorities

Pittsfield Public Schools

Pittsfield Parks & Recreation