Boys’ Club program helps disadvantaged kids learn in summer

By Mark Hallum

The Boys’ Club of New York is kicking off its Summer Superheroes Program, designed to prevent what the organization calls the “summer slide,” a period of reading loss which affects low-income students more than their more affluent counterparts.

The program provides literacy support, with curriculum built to improve reading through one-on-one practice with teen mentors and fun activities which drive classroom learning. Students from grades 1 to 4 experience all this through a genre commonly loved by children of that age: superheroes.

The Summer Superheroes Program, launched in 2012, had had benefits for both students and mentors.

According to BCNY, the program has resulted in an average growth of .23 grade-level points and a 67.4 percent increase in reading ability for program participants, with 23 percent of students reading at or above their grade level by the end of the program.

Nick Eaton, Abbe Clubhouse Education Program coordinator for BCNY in Flushing, explained how many students in low-income areas have few places to turn to for learning support when school is not in session.

“Summer enrichment programs tend to thrive in affluent neighborhoods, where there is more disposable income for academic services, and where there is a pre-existing culture around educational enrichment. For those—and other—reasons, enrichment opportunities are less available in urban communities,” Eaton said. “This means that kids from more affluent families can continue to make progress during the summer, while kids from under-resourced families can’t, increasing the disparity between the students come the next school year.”

Mentors are teens trained and paid by BCNY to guide two students with whom they meet with twice a week, throughout the program. According to Eaton, children involved in the program work on phonetics, sight words and reading comprehension. He added that teen members participate in clubhouse activities throughout the week and have the opportunity to continue demonstrating good behavior outside the classroom.

“The value of literacy cannot be overstated, and the earlier a boy starts learning to read competently, the greater his opportunities will become.” Eaton said. “What’s more, Summer Superheroes not only strives to help boys achieve basic literacy skills and read at their prescribed reading [level], but the program also endeavors to instill a true love of learning and passion for books, which will provide a lifetime of inspiration, encouragement, and learning.”

Mentors will be hired and trained by July 5 and the program is set to begin on July 11 an the BCNY Abbe Clubhouse located at 133-01 41st Road.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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