United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

June 13, 2016

Camp and Literacy Combine for Summer Learning

One part summer learning. One part summer camp. All fun.

“Six week literacy program.” That may not sound like a compelling way to spend a summer, especially if you’re eight years old, but United Way and the Cape Ann YMCA would beg to differ–camp has now become a summer learning experience.

“Not every kid has the chance to go to a summer camp,” said Brian Flynn, Director of Operations for the Cape Ann Y. “With this program we’re able to provide that as well as give them the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom.”

United Way helped kickstart the program when it launched in 2014, providing funding to help give kids a leg up in the reading game. The goal: to offer a fun, memorable summer camp experience while simultaneously boosting literacy competencies.

For the three different classrooms, the Y employed the Four Block Model (developed at Wake Forest), which utilizes guided reading, self-selected reading, working with words and writing. The second half of the days were turned into a traditional camp model, when the kids were able to swim or play in the gym or do whatever other summertime diversion their hearts desired.

“This program was learning as it was meant to be,” said Sarah Bartley, Director of Community Impact for United Way. “It’s fun, hands-on and focused on helping kids learn to love reading.”

Students were selected through school recommendations and tended to be from lower income households and reading below their grade level. Certified teachers and para-professionals taught the classes. Additional support came from the Gloucester Education Foundation, Cape Ann Savings Bank and private funds, which allowed the Y to expand the program.

“We heard a lot of positive feedback from both the kids and parents,” said Sarah Casey, School Age Director for the Cape Ann YMCA. “We had a 93% attendance rate. That’s compared to a baseline 85% attendance rate for other Ys. We were well above the national average.”

“We had kids leery of coming at first,” said Flynn.  “But through the six weeks they really warmed up, even giving the teachers big hugs at the end of the session. And the parents enjoyed this no-cost program that helped their child’s academics.”

And the results? The Y performed assessments before and after the program and for 2015, 85% of the participating kids showed improvement.

“The Gloucester public schools had wanted to do this for years,” said Flynn. “Having a partner like United Way supporting it is immense. It’s more than a Y program; it’s a partnership.”