Worcester State University’s Jumpstart Program Thrives in Its Third Year.

Mark Wagner, Director, The Honorable John J. Binienda Center For Civic Engagement, Worcester State University

October 19, 2017

On Thursday, October 19th, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, President Barry Maloney from Worcester State University, as well as Jake the Lion from the Worcester (baseball)  Bravehearts and others will volunteer for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record event held in Worcester.

Jumpstart is a national nonprofit early education organization that provides language, literacy and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced. Read for the Record is part of the world’s largest shared reading experience, which brings together more than 2 million people each year in classrooms, libraries, community centers and homes across the U.S. It was launched more than a decade ago to highlight the importance of building early literacy and language skills for every child, so that all children have the opportunity to enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. In Worcester, the Jumpstart program is hosted by Worcester State University.

In our city, 34 percent of the 6,000 children under age 5 are living in poverty – and that affects literacy. We also know that children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten 60 percent behind their peers from more affluent communities. A child not reading at grade level by the end of third grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Julie Fitzpatrick, city program and site manager for the Jumpstart program at Worcester State University that organizes the effort in Worcester, suggests that all families are invited to join the fun at the Worcester Public Library, and hear the city manager and others read “Quackers,” written by Liz Wong. Additionally, volunteers from the United Way and other organizations volunteered to read to city children. And every child in Head Start, preschool or kindergarten in the Worcester public schools will receive a copy of “Quackers.” That’s about 4,000 books.

“The number we typically use to think about this is the MCAS reading score at third grade,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said when asked about youth literacy rates in Worcester. “In 2014, 63 percent of third-grade students failed to receive a score of proficient or better. 

In Worcester, 34 percent of the 6,000 children under age 5 are living in poverty – and that affects literacy.

“This is our first year doing such a large-scale event in the city,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “We would love to see as many families as can be there. The first 100 families (at the library) will be able to leave with their own copy of ‘Quackers’ and there will even be a few special guests.”  Worcester’s Read for the Record sponsors include Worcester State University, the United Way, UMass Memorial Healthcare and AbbVie

Preschool interventions for at-risk children have been associated with significantly higher scores on academic measures as young adults, increased likelihood of attending a four-year college, reduced likelihood of teenage pregnancy, lower crime rate and higher earnings.

Di-Ann Ethier, education coordinator for the Webster Square Day Care Center, said the preschool began working with Jumpstart when it first came to the city in 2015 in one of its pre-K classrooms and the collaboration has grown since. Families and teachers at the center, which serves low-income and at-risk families, are excited about Thursday’s event, she said.

“Without the basic fundamentals, children will struggle throughout life,” Ms. Ethier said. “Incorporating Jumpstart into our curriculum has been amazing. (They) are able to work in small groups with our children helping them learn and reinforce the important fundamentals.”

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