Today's guest blogger is Elizabeth Kenny, school-age & outreach coordinator of Youth Services and Programs at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The Free Library of Philadelphia is proud to be a leader in children's programming and services in Philadelphia, helping pave the pathway for our city's future. To this end, in November the Free Library launched the Sunday Literacy Program, which specifically targets students in first through third grade who struggle to read on grade level.  This effort is in support of Read by 4th, a citywide initiative—convened and managed by the Free Library—that aims to majorly increase the number of students in Philadelphia entering the fourth grade at reading level by 2020.

Only 40 percent of students in Philadelphia currently read on grade level by 4th grade.  The first to third grades are vital to a child's sustained success as a student, for it is in these grades that children learn to read.  When they reach the fourth grade, they transition from learning to read to reading to learn.  Statistics show that students in fourth grade who still struggle with fundamental reading skills are more likely to continue to struggle in school moving forward and are less likely to graduate from high school.

One of Read by 4th's core strategies is to expand out-of-school learning opportunities for Philadelphia's young students. It is our hope that the Sunday Literacy Program will provide students a fun, low- pressure learning environment that allows them to experience the joy of reading while building fundamental phonics skills. In conjunction with the reading instruction they are receiving in school, students will hopefully make additional reading gains, achieving on-level reading level by the time they enter 4th grade.

Currently the program is held on Sundays at the following libraries:

  • Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library, 68 West Chelten Avenue, 19144
  • Walnut Street West Library, 201 South 40th Street, 19104
  • West Oak Lane Library, 2000 East Washington Lane, 19138
  • Whitman Library, 200 Snyder Avenue, 19148
  • Widener Library, 2808 West Lehigh Avenue, 19132

The program will expand to six additional locations starting Sunday, March 5:

  • Andorra Library, 705 East Cathedral Road, 19128
  • Bustleton Library, 10199 Bustleton Avenue, 19116
  • Northeast Regional Library, 2228 Cottman Avenue, 19149
  • Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, 19103
  • South Philadelphia Library, 1700 South Broad Street, 19145
  • Wyoming Library, 231 East Wyoming Avenue, 19120

Each library hosting this program will have two sessions every Sunday:

Session I: 1:00–2:45 p.m.
Session II: 3:00– 4:45 p.m.

Registration is required to participate. Parents should plan to arrive at the beginning of either session to register their child. For more information, please visit the library's Sunday Literacy webpage.

The Sunday Literacy Program is in addition to our year-round programming to support grade-level reading, including the Summer of Wonder, JumpStart Camps, culinary literacy programs, and our Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP). For more information about these and other Free Library of Philadelphia programs, visit our website.

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