New Orleans Campaign For Grade-Level Reading, United Way Unveil The Kay Fennelly Summer Literacy Institute


NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and United Way of Southeast Louisiana unveiled on Thursday the Kay Fennelly Summer Literacy Institute – a summer pilot program that addresses the lack of literacy-rich summer programming in New Orleans.

The program aims to reach at least 500 low-income New Orleans children entering kindergarten through third grade to ensure that they have access to a quality, literacy-rich summer program.

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“The ability to read does so much more than prepare children for school-based learning, it prepares them for lifelong vocational and financial success,” said UWSELA President and CEO and NOLA GLR Steering Committee Member Michael Williamson. “Creating greater access to high-quality summer literacy programming for early learners will build upon the foundation of reading necessary to create better, brighter futures for all children.”

The Institute, held in partnership with the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, provides staff training workshops, materials, and ongoing literacy specialist coaching to 16 local summer program providers that are eager to preventing summer learning loss by enhancing or establishing robust literacy development components in their activities.

Summer learning loss, or summer slide, is the loss, or reversal, of academic skills and knowledge that occurs over summer months when children are not in school. Not attending high-quality summer programming can cause low-income students to lose two to three months of learning each summer.

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Recent data reveals that 69 percent of third graders in New Orleans public schools are not reading on grade level. Furthermore, students who are low-income are nearly 40 percent less likely to read on grade-level by the end of third grade than their more affluent peers.

“I am so excited to witness this critical milestone in the New Orleans Grade Level Reading Campaign’s effort to move the needle on reading proficiency in New Orleans,” said Institute of Mental Hygiene Executive Director and NOLA GLR Steering Committee Member Ron McClain. “It is my hope that the Fennelly Institute will serve as a model that ensures that all summer camp experiences for our children include a literacy focus that will serve to limit the learning loss experienced by so many of our children during the summer months away from school.”

The Institute is named in honor of Kay Fennelly, a former educator, thanks to a generous $100,000 gift to UWSELA from her son, David, of Associated Terminals and Turn Services.

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“My mother was an educator in Ireland and instilled in me the great importance of reading, learning and equality at an early age,” said David Fennelly. “She taught children out of our home who came from many different backgrounds, including some who were differently abled, and recognized the importance of equal access to education for all. She and I are honored to present the Institute to the children and families of Southeast Louisiana to help create a level playing field for the most vulnerable among us.”

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