Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wishes for Peace and Prosperity in 2014

The REAL Program wishes you PEACE and Prosperity in 2014
Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

REAL Meaning of Christmas

The children are nestled or snug in the beds,.....
T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house,....
Now dash away, dance away,.....

These are the words to classic Christmas stories that we only know if we have been the lucky ones who have had book-loving families and loved ones who have given us these wonderful gifts. REAL exists to help those who do not have those gifts in their lives.

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Get the REAL Mobile Road Ready

We are Tweeting, Blogging, adding to Facebook, connecting on Linkedin. We have a website! We have a REAL Board of Directors. We have children to work with. We have families to work with. We have books to pick up and deliver. We have stories to tell. We have pictures to share. We have volunteers to work. We have places to offer our work. We need money to make this all work together and put our REAL Mobile on the road!

EXTRAS and REAL Read Aloud

Mrs. Brown and I will be reading books to children and helping children select books at EXTRAS for Creative Learning tomorrow (12/14/2013) from 10:00-11:30.

Event:  Read Aloud for children 4-8 years old or anyone who likes to listen!

Where:  EXTRAS for Creative Learning, JB Blood Building, 20 Wheeler Street, Lynn (3rd floor)
(This is near the Lynn YMCA).

When:  Saturday, 12/14/2013 from 10:00-11:30


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Please consider becoming a REAL Literacy Champion by making a donation this season. Your gift will help sustain our programs. It will be a gift of literacy, and for the children this will be a gift for life.
 Thank you for making a REAL difference!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gordon College Students Volunteer for REAL

Rachel and Krystal are working on a sewing project of making little pillows at The REAL Program at Ahabat Sholom. The REAL Program has just finished the semester that was full of fun, learning, games, reading, laughter, literacy and sewing, too!
Thank you Gordon students- Alex, Isabel, Rachel, Rebecca, Madison, David, Arthur, James, Joel.
Merry Christmas

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Preschoolers' reading skills benefit from one modest change by teachers

Preschoolers' reading skills benefit from one modest change by teachers. This article is about a study that took place in Ohio as part of a collaboration of colleges and universities lead by Ohio State.
This is REAL evidence about the importance of reading with children.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Studies Show What We Need to Do to Help Struggling Readers!

Students who are struggling readers need to have access to books, well-trained teachers who can help them with the specifics and a home-school connection, according to a study made by Johns Hopkins University in 2012. The REAL Program exists to improve literacy. We are so fortunate to have experienced teachers to help students with their homework, selecting and reading quality books and the opportunity to mentor high school and college students and young parents, too.

Helping Struggling Readers
by Crystal Kelly, MA.Ed. and Linda Campbell, Ph.D.

Many teachers are concerned about the numbers of elementary children who struggle with reading. Such concerns are warranted. Studies indicate that when students get off to a poor start in reading, they rarely catch up. Struggling readers encounter negative consequences: grade retention, assignment to special education classrooms, or participation in long-term remedial services. Further, as they progress through the grade levels, the academic distance from those who read well grows more pronounced (The Learning First Alliance, 1998; Rashotte, Toregesen, & Wagner, 1997; National Reading Panel, 1999; Torgesen, 1998).
Why do some students struggle with reading and what can be done to increase their success? These questions plague teachers and parents and are ones that compelled us to search for answers. To do so, we reviewed six programs developed specifically for struggling readers. They included Success For All, Reading Recovery, the Spalding Method, Early Intervention Reading, the Boulder Project, and the Winston-Salem Project. We also interviewed six experienced elementary teachers and four district level reading specialists about what they consider essential instruction for at-risk readers.
Based on the literature review and discussions with knowledgeable colleagues, commonalties emerged for both the causes and potential cures of weak reading skills. In what follows, we first explore common reasons why some students struggle with reading and suggest antidotes for enhancing their achievement. Next, we identify the five essential components of reading programs that help students acquire literacy skills.
Why Do Some Students Struggle with Reading?
Unfortunately, there are several causes of underachievement in reading. The four most common ones we found include 1) reading role models and life experiences, 2) the acquisition of reading skills, specifically phonics and comprehension, 3) visual processing, and 4) learning disabilities. When teachers proactively address these underdeveloped skills in the classroom, struggling readers can make progress.
1. Role Models and Prior Life Experience
At-risk readers often lack role models who use the same Standard English as that taught in schools. Effective role models for children are those who can explain the purposes for reading and can model fluency, expression, and inflection with Standard English. Without such role models, students typically receive limited exposure to literature, vocabulary, and figures of speech or common everyday phrases. To antidote a lack of role models, struggling readers should be saturated with language in the classroom. To increase the amount of language a child hears and uses, teachers can play books on tape, conduct read alouds, and use a variety of oral activities. Parent involvement is also important. Home environments that are "print-rich" familiarize children with language and reinforce its importance. For teachers, supporting children at school often means encouraging support at home.
Struggling readers sometimes lack background experiences that classwork assumes they have had. For example, if children are reading a story about making cookies, but have only experienced store-bought varieties, they might not understand the excitement of a character who enjoys the smell of baking cookies. Educators can build commonly shared background knowledge through real-world experiences, simulations, visuals, or storytelling.
2. Lack of Reading Skills, Specifically Phonics and Comprehension
A second reason children often struggle is because they lack two critical reading skills: phonics and comprehension. Direct phonics instruction is vital for struggling readers. The teachers and experts we interviewed agreed with the Report of the National Reading Panel (1999) that stated "systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and for children who are having difficulty learning to read." Phonemic awareness instruction asks children to focus on and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units, in spoken syllables and words. Explicit phonics instruction helps children understand that spoken words are composed of identifiable sounds and that sounds are represented in print by symbols. The teachers and experts also mentioned the Spalding Method as effective in helping children recognize phonograms and letter patterns in words.
Explicit phonics instruction must also teach blending sounds and word patterns. There are simple ways to help children strengthen their blending skills. Examples are classroom reviews, games that change one letter to make a new word, and audiotapes that focus on specific sounds and blends.
Teachers can also point out little words contained within bigger words when a struggling reader gets stuck. This important decoding skill can be taught by posting words on classroom walls or by having students keep word banks of unfamiliar terms. When tutoring one-on-one, students can be asked to build compound words from word cards. As they construct the words, they learn new vocabulary and how to search for the little words within larger ones. When finished, students can be asked to read all of the words out loud and to discuss the meaning of the words they don't know. Another simple decoding technique is to make a chart in the classroom for children to use as for guidance in learning to decode. Such a chart might read:
1. Sight Words
2. Phonograms
3. Word Parts
4. Sentence-Context
5. Pictures
Another main skill struggling readers lack is the ability to quickly recognize sight words. Due to the slower than normal development of "sight vocabulary," that many can read fluently and automatically, the lack of rapid word recognition limits comprehension for at-risk readers. It is therefore important to teach common words. One approach, Dolch sight words, rank words for the frequency of their appearance in print and can be used to teach word recognition.
The educators we interviewed strengthen struggling readers' sight word knowledge in a variety of ways. Some had their students read a list of sight words everyday for speed and accuracy. Others used sight words on flash cards, in matching games, word searches, silly sentences, and computer games such as "Word Munchers."
Comprehension is a crucial aspect of reading. Unfortunately, some readers often struggle in this area due to lack of familiarity with the content. For example, children who are unfamiliar with an airplane may find it challenging to understand a story about airplanes. Providing real-life experiences for children is helpful in building shared background knowledge.
There are other areas that limit comprehension for struggling readers. These are lack of fluency, inability to transfer information to new settings, finding the main idea in a story, and using context clues while reading. When children stumble on words, the amount of information they can comprehend is limited. As mentioned above, the development of sight word vocabulary allows children to construct meaning from their reading rather than simply trying to identify the words. Asking students to engage in a variety of listening activities is one way to model fluency, inflection, and correct expression as well. Many teachers also ask higher level questions related to the stories the children hear so that students can slowly apply these questioning skills to their independent reading.
Struggling readers often have a difficult time transferring old knowledge to new situations. One strategy to remedy this problem is to teach students word families. This helps them use their knowledge of a known word to decode an unfamiliar word with the same letter pattern.
Finding the main idea can also prove challenging. Teachers can model self-questioning during listening activities to focus students' attention on the main idea of the text. Students can also be asked about a selection before, during, and after reading. For example, before reading, teachers can preview the selection and activate students' background knowledge. During reading, students can be asked to monitor for meaning and pose questions of themselves about their reading. After a selection, students can summarize the content and relate it to themselves or something that they already know.
Comprehension can be further enhanced with the intentional use of context clues. While they are reading, students can be asked questions such as "Does that make sense? How can we make it make sense?" If the passage did not make sense request that students 1) read it again, 2) read to their partners, 3) stop and think, or 4) talk to their partners. Monitoring for meaning is a skill that struggling readers need in order to strengthen their comprehension of text.
3. Vision Problems
Children who struggle with reading may be experiencing difficulty with visual tracking, eye teaming, double vision, and the ability to communicate what they see or don't see. One elementary school recently had the lowest first and second grade readers screened for such vision problems and found that the majority of students had at least one vision difficulty. One way to strengthen visual processing is to use eye exercises. Students can be asked to color in all sections of a drawing or a design that contain two dots. Although this may sound like a simple task, those who experience vision difficulty can find it challenging.
Vision alphabet timing can strengthen visual perception as well. In this exercise, a teacher reads the letters of an alphabet in order. The students circle the letter the first time they see it while reading through a passage. They can be timed during this exercise and later with other selections to see if their speed and accuracy improve.
4. Learning Disabilities
Some children have difficulty processing and memorizing information. Frequently, some will learn words in one context and not transfer them to the next. By activating prior knowledge, teachers can help students make connections between past and current life experiences.
Memorization can also prove challenging. Teachers may want to emphasize the importance of memorizing sight words since they will be encountered frequently in text. Sight words can be reinforced by posting them on a "word wall" in the classroom or by having students make individualized booklets of words to know.
Struggling readers, like all children, learn in different ways. Reading classrooms that include kinesthetic, musical, or other modalities can enhance learning. Students can listen to books on tape, act out a part from a play they are reading, or retell a story on a flannel board. Not only can students benefit from learning in different ways, they also benefit from different groupings. Some suggestions include having partner/peer activities, buddy reading/cross grade, independent, and teamwork. No matter how struggling readers are grouped or what modalities are used to teach, as one reading specialist asserted, "Struggling readers need to hear it, see it, say it, and write it before they can learn it."
What are the Essential Components of Effective Programs for Struggling Readers?
To answer this question, we analyzed the components of six programs for underachieving readers. The programs included Success For All, Reading Recovery, The Spalding Method, Early Intervention Reading, The Boulder Project, and The Winston-Salem Project. We also interviewed six teachers and four reading specialists about what they believed to be essential when teaching struggling readers. There were significant areas of agreement. According to the educators and the established programs, the necessary components of effective reading programs include 1) phonics instruction, 2) listening comprehension , 3) reading comprehension, 4) tutoring opportunities, and 5) extending reading from the classroom to the home. Each component is described below.
1) Explicit Phonics Instruction
There were three key reading strategies that all six programs and the ten educators cited as essential. The three skills included phonics, listening, and reading comprehension. All ten educators agreed that phonics was the number one skill that struggling readers lacked. Likewise, it was interesting to observe that the majority of instructional time in the six programs is dedicated to word recognition and fluency through explicit phonics instruction. The programs typically use prescribed texts in which stories contain letters and words that children have been introduced to.
2) Listening Comprehension
Listening comprehension was also identified by the educators as an essential skill to be taught. They suggested that teachers intentionally teach listening. They also said that teachers can serve as role models by showing students how to figure out unknown words, monitor comprehension, and use self-questioning.
Similarly, the Success For All (SFA) program asserts that listening comprehension is vital. In the SFA model, the teaching of listening comprehension includes: presentation of the objective by the teacher, relating the objective to previous learning, reading the story aloud with rich expression, modeling self-questioning, discussing the selection, connecting it to other literature or content areas, and extension or enrichment activities.
3) Reading Comprehension Skills
While the educators and the structured programs may approach teaching reading comprehension skills differently, common themes were evident. Reading comprehension could be improved through teacher modeling, providing students with real or simulated experiences to establish commonly shared prior knowledge, reading for a variety of purposes, teaching the specific behaviors that good readers use before, during, and after reading, and repeatedly exposing students to a story and giving them immediate feedback on their comprehension of its elements.
4) Tutoring Opportunities
All six programs value tutoring for at-risk readers. An evident assumption is that children who are experiencing difficulty with reading should spend more time reading in a one-on-one setting than those who are fluent. Similarly, the educators emphasized the importance of at-risk readers reading something everyday. Providing individualized tutoring, whether for 20 minutes daily or three times weekly, was considered essential. Effective reading programs incorporate a certain amount of instruction time that is concentrated and often individualized.
5) Extending Reading from the Classroom to the Home
The six programs also emphasize a critical component of a child's reading success, the home connection. While the frequency of the required at-home reading varies from 20 minutes nightly to 20 minutes three times a week, each program sends materials home that the children should use. This enables families with limited resources to complete homework assignments.
According to the experienced educators, reading at home reinforces the skills and concepts students must acquire. Additionally, when parents support their children by taking the time to listen and help them read, it signals that reading is important. In many schools, 20 minutes of reading is required every night, and if students do not bring a signature back, they go to the Reading Opportunity Room to make up missed reading from the evening before.
As noted above, there are five components that the six teachers, four experts, and six reading programs agree need to be in place for students to progress in reading. They are phonics instruction, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, tutoring, and an at-home component. These program components are consistent with those identified by other researchers (Carson, 1999; Gaskins, Ehri, Cress, O'Hara, & Donnelly, 1996; Learning First Alliance, 1998; Torgesen, 1998; Snow et al., 1998).
It should be stated that there are many worthwhile reading programs available and in use in schools. Others beyond the scope of this article are Language Experience, Total Reading, ReadWell, EdMark, Spalding, Explode the Code, Steck Vaughn Reading Comprehension Series, and The Multiple Skills Program. It should also be noted that while any one program may help struggling readers, none is a "cure-all" solution. As a reading expert in this study observed, "It's not just the method, it's the teacher." Teacher knowledge, training, and skill are essential to implementing any program that focuses on struggling readers. It appears likely, however, that teachers will have more success when they use programs that incorporate phonics, reading for meaning, tutoring, and an at-home component. Struggling readers can and will make progress in their reading abilities when taught by informed and committed educators.
Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Carson, S.A. (1999). A veteran enters the reading wars: My journey. The Reading Teacher, 53(3), 212-224.
Education Office of Research Consumer Guide. (1992). Reading recovery. Retrieved from
Gaskins, I.W, Ehri, L.C., Cress, C., O'Hara, C., & Donnelly, K. (1996). Procedures for word learning: Making discoveries about words. The Reading Teacher, 50, 312-327.
Gough, P.B. (1996). How children learn to read and why they fail. Annals of Dyslexia, 46, 3-20.
Hall, N. & Price, R. (1991). Explode the code. Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service.
Juel, C. (1996). What makes literacy tutoring effective?. Reading Research Quarterly, 31(1), 268-289.
Learning First Alliance. (1998). Every child reading. American Educator, 22(1 & 2), 52-63.
Marilyn, J.A., Foorman, B. R., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (1998). The elusive phoneme: Why phonemic awareness is so important and how to help children develop it. American Educator, 22(1 & 2), 18-29.
Mastropieri, M.A. & Scruggs, T.E. (1997). Best practices in promoting reading comprehension in students with learning disabilities: 1976-1996. Remedial and Special Education, 18, 197-213.
McPike, E., Ed. (1998). The unique power of reading and how to unleash it. American Educator, 22(1& 2), 4-5.
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Myers, M. D. (1997). Qualitative research in information systems. IS World Net. Retrieved from
National Reading Panel. (1999). The report of the national reading panel-teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington D.C. Author.
Pikluski, J. (1994). Preventing reading failure: A review of five effective programs. The Reading Teacher, 48(1), 30-39.
Rashotte, C.A., Toregesen, J., & Wagner, R. (1997). Growth in reading accuracy and fluency as a result of intensive intervention. Miami, FL: International Dyslexia Association.
Snow, C.E., Burns, S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Success For All Foundation, Inc. (2000). Success for all: a proven schoolwide program for the elementary grades. Retrieved from
Torgesen, J.K. (1998). Catch them before they fall. American Educator, 22(1 & 2), 32-39.
About the authors
This article was a collaborative project among a teacher practitioner and a university professor.
Crystal Kelly holds a Masters of Arts in Education. She has been teaching in the primary grades for three years. Crystal can be contacted at
Linda Campbell, Ph.D. is a Professor of Graduate Education at Antioch University Seattle. She is the author of numerous books, chapters and articles addressing ways to improve the education of children, adults, and marginalized populations. She may be reached

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two Busy Guys Taking Time to Read

The days are filled with fun, laughter, play and we still find time to read and to get homework done! In the exceptionally warm temperature today, we brought the garden tools to rake the leaves as our way to say thank you for our space at Congregation Ahabat Sholom for REAL. In this photo, Jay and John Lai  enjoy a little reading time. Jay is a student at U. Maine/Farmington who has interned for REAL this semester. John Lai is a REAL student.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Service Learning Students from St. Mary's High School, Lynn

The REAL Program is so lucky to have the dedication of volunteers of all ages! The young ladies in the photo are Ashley and Naomi from St. Mary's High School who volunteer at The REAL Program in the Lynn Boys and Girls Club. The children look to them as mentors to help them with homework and reading; to play games or role play; to help pack the dinners that we provide through a partnership with My Brother's Table.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Embroidered Book Bag for REAL Books

The moms are coming for REAL to help their children learn to read better and be better students in school. Moms and kids are embroidering, sewing and decorating canvas book bags.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Welcome Harvest Season

The following piece was written by Julie Newburg about the concept of communities working together. Thank you Julie and Marc.
There was a real spirit of “community building community”, when The REAL Program, a literacy-based afterschool program for children from the Bricket School in Lynn, made decorations for the Shul’s Sukkah.  Before they embarked on their artistic adventure, the children learned about the importance of welcoming the fall bounty, and welcoming guests into the home, from Shul Co-President Marc Winer. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Harold has been to Endicott, Gordon, Montserrat and North Shore Community College!

The REAL Program started last Monday with a beautiful group of children and volunteers. We range in ages, backgrounds and traditions but we all share a common goal of providing quality educational experiences for our children and making this world a better place. On Tuesday, Harold (from the 50 year old story of Harold and the Purple Crayon), attended a community service fair at Endicott College. Yesterday, Harold accompanied some children, moms and teachers to the LYNN PLUNGE hosted by Gordon College's Lynn liaison, Val Buchanan. Happy Fall Everyone!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Harold went to Endicott College Today for REAL

Well, Harold has been to three colleges in the past 5 weeks! Today Harold visited Endicott College as part of the Community Service Fair. Thank you for inviting us for REAL!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

REAL Board Member Steps Up to The Plate

 A few weeks ago I received an email asking if I wanted to be on the board of the REAL program in Lynn, Massachusetts. The person who sent the email was a friend of mine (our children went to school together).  We had also shared time on a committee during those years so I knew her to be a tireless worker for a number of good causes.  I said yes to the invitation, without hesitation, for a couple of reasons. The first was that the program was based in Lynn. Though I technically grew up in Revere (just over the General Edwards Bridge) I spent much of my young life in the city of Lynn.  In those days you could find me playing basketball at the YMCA on Market Street, or going shopping with my mother in Central Square, or sneaking behind the fence of the Drive In on the Lynnway to watch the movies for free. To this day I still have friends from Lynn and still have a great affinity with the city.
The second reason I was so eager to help with this program was its mission. The REAL program is about helping kids to read who have limited resources available to them. Why is this so important?  “You're going to hate the answer, less than 15% of Americans read books on (a) regular basis.” (
I teach at Salem State University and I’m often giving my students statistics that support the reading problem that is growing in this country. “Be the 15 percent,” I urge them.
“Here are some additional surprising statistics.
*1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
*42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
*80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
*70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
*57 percent of new books are not read to completion. Over half of those are not read past page18” (Wiki.answers).
By helping REAL to distribute books and encourage reading in young children, I am essentially putting my money where my mouth is. I can look that next class of Salem State students in the eye and know that, in some small way, I may be helping to create the adult readers of tomorrow.
I am grateful for being asked to contribute and I look forward to the responsibility.
Kevin Carey

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

The wheels on the bus go round and round and the teacher on the bus is Mrs. Brown!
She is reading a book to the children on their way to their art installation at the Montserrat College of Art as part of their literacy project entitled "Here we are".

Today, The REAL Program was the proud recipient of a van that we call THE REAL MOBILE that enables us to pick up books and distribute books to children. Thank you to the Donti Family.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harold, Phoebe and Daniel's Purple Crayon!

Harold is 50 years old this year! However, Harold is new to everyone who has not been on his purple crayon journey before so it does not matter how many years this imaginary masterpiece has been around. Daniel Stone and Phoebe Warner have lead children from The REAL Program on an imaginary journey through literacy and art in a collaborative art experience called HERE WE ARE!
The show is at Montserrat College of Art from 9:30-11:00 on August 13, 2013. JOIN US!

Here We Are! Art Collaboration at Montserrat College of Art

Here We Are will also show tomorrow morning from 9:30-11:00 at the Hardie Building, 23 Essex Street, Beverly. Join our communities of children, art, literacy, learning, teaching, exploring, laughing, enjoying,...and see the incredible art leadership of Phoebe Warner and Daniel Stone along with fabulous teaching from Betsy Brown, Charlie Juliand, and more  of The REAL Program, Inc.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Art of Reading

The Art of Reading
During the summer months, the children in The REAL Program have been lucky enough to work with two dedicated students from the Montserrat College of Art, Phoebe Warner and Daniel Stone. Under the tutelage of Susan Handler, Community Outreach Coordinator of the college, Phoebe and Dan took the children into the world of art as seen through specific books and their authors and illustrators. They were exposed to the art of map making as Phoebe and Dan read them Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney and Annette Crosby. They used their imaginations as they took that journey started fifty years ago by Crocker Johnson with Harold and the Purple Crayon. They went back even further as they learned about dinosaurs with Donald and Carol Carrick's book, Whatever Happened to Patrick's Dinosaur?. The children shared some fossils from Susan's personal collection and delightedly played with clay to make their own. They even dabbled in role playing with Dan as they drew their version of footprints and imagined how those beasts of old lived. The culmination of the summer session, alas too soon, was to work with color and the children and their mentors did not disappoint,. Using the book, The Color Box by Dayle Ann Dodds and illustrated by local artist Giles Laro
che, the children could visit the world of color with a little monkey, named Alexander. Here the children reproduced large color panels and travelled through the rainbow colors like Alexander.

These children shared an experience not often available to them and we all thank Phoebe, Dan and Susan for their enthusiasm, hard work and love. It was a great summer!

Betsy Brown
Betsy Brown is a teacher/mentor known as Mrs. Brown who brings more than 40 years of teaching experience to The REAL Program, Inc. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Josue is One Happy Guy for REAL

Come and see the work Josue and his friends from The REAL Program, Inc have done at the Montserrat College of Art Show called HERE WE ARE. Monday or Tuesday, August 12th and 13th from 9:30-11:00 at Montserrat College of Art, Hardie Gallery, 23 Essex Street, Beverly, MA

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Board Member Reflections for REAL

Kelsey McNiff

The goals of REAL Lynn – providing access to books, strengthening children’s literacy, cultivating a love of learning, supporting families and teachers, and offering teaching and mentoring opportunities for aspiring educators – are in and of themselves reason to support this organization.  Yet my choice to join the board of REAL Lynn and my belief in the good that the program does comes from my own experiences as well.

First, snapshots: I remember myself as a little girl lying in a cocoon-like hammock at my grandparents’ house on a hot summer day, reading Dennis the Menace, loving the comfort of the story and the storybook neighborhood, the cool darkness of the shade, and the quiet around and inside of me.  And later, myself as sixth grader dreaming about becoming the youngest girl to ever publish a best-selling novel, writing a chapter book about a roller skating waitress from Texas (who also happened to be in the sixth grade).  As a child, my imagination was one of my favorite places to be, first reading stories and then writing them. 

This continues to be true today.  My love for reading and writing never stopped; in fact, it grew and informed my own career path.  I believe that literacy is a gateway to self-discovery.  As part of the Harvard College Writing Program faculty, I teach students that reading and writing are forms of communication as well as personal expression; as we engage the ideas of others, we develop and refine our own.  When REAL Lynn works to build literacy, its teachers give children tools to cultivate their interests, to nourish their imagination, and to build their confidence.  When we build literacy, then, in the words of REAL Lynn teacher and board member Betsy Brown, we teach children to ask not “whether” they can do something, but “how” they can do it.  

I also know first hand the value of service learning and the importance of mentor relationships, both of which REAL Lynn provides to its volunteers, be they students or experienced educators.   Whether volunteering to tutor elementary school children when I was in high school, organizing a women’s leadership conference for high school students when I was in college, or tutoring adult English language learners when I was a young professional, public service gave me a sense of pride in supporting others and contributing to my community; it also showed me the rewards of a career in education.  And a handful of passionate and engaged professional mentors – my faculty advisor in graduate school, veteran teaching colleagues, and talented museum educators – offered me guidance and expertise as I began to build my career.  These mentor relationships took many forms, but all of them began with me watching, asking questions and being given the opportunity to jump right in and teach.  I learned from trying and emulating, and I got better with reflection and practice and ambition.  REAL Lynn gives its volunteers the opportunity to benefit from similar experiences and to nourish their ongoing love of learning.

Thus I believe that REAL Lynn makes a difference in many people’s lives: the children, their families and their communities as well as the REAL Lynn volunteers and teachers.  And what a gift this is.

Monday, July 22, 2013

We were treated to an incredible lesson of learning about fossils and rocks after reading

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Here We Are! A Community Art Event

Here We Are! is the name of the program that is a collaboration of young children in Lynn at The REAL Program and Montserrat College of Art. The children and college students learn about themselves, each other and our community with the guidance of dedicated adults; many of whom have volunteered their time to be here. The REAL Program, Inc works closely with the Lynn Boys and Girls Club, Lynn Public Library and My Brother's Table and is held at the Congregation Ahabat Sholom on Ocean Street.  Tomorrow the children will have the opportunity to examine billion-year-old fossils and then create their own fossils out of clay.
First we will read Patrick's Dinosaurs!

Save the date!
Here We Are!
August 12 and 13 at Montserrat College of Art
23 Essex Street
Beverly, MA 01915

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Harold at the Lynn Public Library

The REAL Program and Montserrat College of Art were delighted to work with children at the Lynn Public Library this morning. Children were treated to a read-aloud of Harold and the Purple Crayon read by Daniel Stone. Volunteers Betsy Brown, Charlie Juliand, Narayan Plourde helped make the day a success. All of this literacy-based fun is being documented to be shown in an art show featuring the work of our young artists at Montserrat College of Art on August 12th and 13th in the second floor of the Hardie Building. Mark your calendars!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Harold and the Purple Crayon Journey

Today we journeyed through the imaginary world of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. This fantasy book was written more than 50 years ago and it is still captivating! "How old do you think Harold is?" "How can this really happen?"These were some of the comments that the young students asked our leaders in art today. Phoebe Warner and Daniel Stone are interns from Montserrat College of Art this summer. They are guiding through very creative and thoughtful literacy-based art lessons that the children in The REAL Program are thoroughly enjoying.

The children got lost in their own worlds of drawing on the paper that we had taped to the walls to create our imaginary worlds. Some of them worked alone and many of them worked with the art students or with our veteran volunteers of Emily Geaney and Ashley Stiles.  Below is Daniel working with his "allies" in the world of mustache wars. Anything is possible!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Much More to Anticipate

Hip Hop on Pop with Dr. Seuss to the beat was less than rhythmic with Jan and Charlie leading the group on Thursday. Mr. Herb read the book while Mrs. Brown played her Ants at a Picnic game with some of the new little guys who just laughed and laughed using zoo sticks to pick up their ants. They also played a throughly engaged game of Head Bandz. Referrals to The REAL Program are coming from all over the city and children, volunteers, peer nonprofits are also coming from all over the city. No pun intended but the program is novel!

A chance to interact with other children and be in a group environment are two major keys to this program. So many of the children have not had experience away from their small network of family, extended family and neighborhood. The children are not ready to read but they are ready to learn and they are ready to be with others.

All in all, the first week of The REAL Program, Inc was a success. Volunteers came, children came and came back for more (One little girl gave up a sleep over to come to the reading program.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

REAL Fun with Montserrat College of Art Students

There were 14 happy children drawing and talking today at The REAL Program. We even were entertained by our very talented Hayliana who played the cello for us, too. Daniel from Montserrat read the book Me on the Map today. The children asked many questions and they answered many questions. Most of them had an understanding of what a map does. Phoebe from Montserrat showed the different kinds of maps displayed on the walls and then the magic happened:  Magic markers, colored pencils, pencils, crayons, rulers, and large sheets of white paper were put to work. Those blank sheets of paper became incredible dream houses, cities, and flowers. The wide age range of children is clear as they each gravitate to their respective developmental comfort zone.
Mr. Herb read and played games with the youngest  REAL kids while the others concentrated on their work.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The REAL Program, Inc is Launched!!

The REAL Program, Inc has started its summer program at the Congregation Ahabat Sholom. Children  come on Mondays and Wednesdays OR on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On our first day we were grateful for the nice weather as we could go outside and play four square and other interactive games. As our four square players were novices, we devised a question addition to the game in case the child could not stay on the square very long. This allowed us to build vocabulary or math skills into a simple game of four square. It worked beautifully!

The children drew or wrote on their I am, I can, I will page. They all were so engaged that they did not know it was 11:00 am and time to go! Oh, yes. They each chose a book to take home to keep. Our teaching team consisted of Mrs. Brown, Mr. Herb, Ms. Stacy, Ms. Jan, Meghan and Kelly. We had 14 children in attendance on our first REAL day!

Day One of The REAL Program on Tuesdays and Thursdays was delightful! We had 7 children ranging in ages 3-11; we had 6 cultures represented in the composite of our students, volunteers and interns. Phoebe and Daniel, our Montserrat College of Art leaders, read the story Me on the Map. After a brief discussion about maps and a look at the vast assortment of maps on the walls, the young students were given a chance to draw their own maps on 24" x 36" drawing paper. They drew. They drew. They drew! It was a quiet room of children and young adults each concentrating on their own work. Then, suddenly we had a community of laughter and conversation as Daniel, Montserrat art intern, said he was drawing a picture of a horse with feathers. One young student told him that was not possible! Another student said it was possible if a chicken ran over a horse. Someone else added that the chicken must be the size of a school bus and could you imagine the size of the egg it "pooped". Well, that was all that was needed to bring us all into a world of conversation. 

The children showed the maps they drew and they shared a bit more about themselves. We will frame these maps for our art show at Montserrat College of Art on Monday and Tuesday, August 12th and 13th. 
Our teaching team consisted of Ms. Stacy, Ms. Jan, Mr. Charlie, Mr. Daniel, Ms. Phoebe and Tiffani.