Nearly 30 percent of Sarasota County’s third graders are reading below grade-level – a population that will continue to struggle in and out of the classroom without early intervention. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading includes several community programs in Sarasota County that provide children and parents with the resources they need to build a strong foundation for future success.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has honored Sarasota County as a recipient of its prestigious 2014 “Pacesetter” award for its progress toward early literacy for all children.
Through generous donors, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has awarded partial or complete funding for each of the following programs. This list of programs and organizations will continue to grow as the Campaign develops and engages more groups and individuals in our community.
Alta Vista Eagle Academy
The Alta Vista Eagle Academy is a unique summer program that has utilized a two-generational approach to education and addressing poverty by providing structured programs on the campus of Alta Vista to prepare students for kindergarten, mitigate summer learning loss in children entering first and second grades and provide skills to parents to fill in-demand jobs in the healthcare field.
Deep social work is a key component to this program. Alta Vista has hired their own social worker who comes alongside families to help them navigate their challenges and move them into a more stable position for their children. All of the students who participated in Eagle Academy entered kindergarten prepared for school, and none experienced summer learning loss.
Bridges to Kindergarten
Bridges to Kindergarten is an eight-week summer program for children who are identified through testing by voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) providers as “struggling” to meet the requirements to enter kindergarten. Each child in the program works through lesson plans customized by teachers to addresses their particular learning needs. An independent consultant evaluates the students at the end of the program to ensure that graduates are ready to thrive upon entering their new classrooms.
Throughout the selection process and program, a “parent advocate” works with a trained social worker to identify challenges and opportunities to improve family outcomes. Simultaneously, parents have the opportunity to participate in customized programs designed to help them achieve their educational and/or professional goals. These efforts are designed to help foster an environment that is conducive to continued learning for every child who participates in the program.
Grade Level and Beyond
This summer learning program is delivered by certified elementary school teachers within the 2015 summer camp schedule and is available for kindergarten through third-grade girls and families at Tuttle, Alta Vista, Gocio and Emma E. Booker elementary schools. Up to 50 girls participate in two hours of formal, daily-targeted literacy instruction based on accessed ability level. Girls also engage in mixed-ability level activities, individual reading activities and weekly family literacy events that mirror the literacy instruction girls receive daily.
The goal of the family literacy component is to facilitate a shared literacy experience for families and to develop a shared language to discuss written texts. Every family will be required to have a minimum of one touchpoint with a parent advocate to assess the family need and determine if further supports are necessary. The program goals are to prevent the summer slide and build greater parental involvement and confidence in supporting girls in their literacy continuum.
Great Futures Academy
The Great Futures Academy is an 11-week targeted summer program serving approximately 60 children and families from Tuttle, Gocio, and Emma E. Booker. Students are selected based on feedback from principals and teachers as well as information collected in the application process. The program utilizes guided reading instruction, educational technology labs and creative learning through arts, writing, games and movement to help students retain and strengthen reading gains made during the school year. Students also participate swimming, sports, art and other fun activities provided by the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota designed to encourage holistic growth.
These enrichment efforts extend beyond the classroom as well. The Great Futures Academy employs a contracted social worker to conduct deep family work uncovering issues and opportunities for the parents and families. Parents are encouraged to participate in adult classes geared to help them with their professional and educational goals – making them more capable for their young scholars.
An initiative of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast, Reading Bigs aims to accelerate early reading skills through one-to-one mentoring of children at Tuttle Elementary School. Volunteers collaborate with their mentor manager, and in turn the classroom teachers, to provide early literacy activities to children struggling in reading. With the support of a Big, a child has a greater likelihood of successfully reading on grade level by the third grade. There will also be a parent element to this program based on input from the school social worker as well as the mentor who is engaged with the child and teacher.