Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards Providence $25,000 Grant to Implement New Reading Initiative for English Language Learners

PROVIDENCE, RI – (October 18, 2012) Cities of Service has announced that it has awarded Providence a $25,000 grant supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies to implement Leyendo, a service-based initiative to boost reading levels for Providence students who are not reading on grade level and speak a language other than English at home.

Providence is one of 18 U.S. cities to be awarded the grant, which is designed to support mayors who are harnessing the power of community volunteers in a strategic way to address priority problems in their communities.

“As mayor, I am committed to fostering a city culture in which civic engagement and volunteerism is in our DNA. This grant will help us leverage the power of our citizens to strategically and measurably improve reading levels for students who don’t speak English at home and are struggling to get to grade level,” said Mayor Angel Taveras.

Providence’s Leyendo (Spanish for ‘Reading’) initiative will build on an existing reading intervention program run by Inspiring Minds, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes volunteer tutors and mentors to help the school district’s neediest students.

The expanded volunteer reading intervention program will be piloted in January at the Mary Fogarty Elementary and Carl Lauro Elementary schools, which have been designated as low-performing by the state Department of Education and have significant ELL populations. Spanish-speaking volunteers will work with Spanish-speaking ELL students identified by their teachers as struggling readers, provide mentoring, and link students with summer learning opportunities.

Research shows that the most important predictor of school success and high school graduation is reading proficiency by end of third grade. Children who aren’t reading on grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and poor students who read below grade level at the end of third grade are significantly even more likely to drop out of school, according to studies.

Mayor Taveras and Providence Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi have made grade-level reading a top priority for Providence’s schools. In 2011, only 46 percent of Providence students entering fourth grade were proficient in reading. At the same time, children who speak a language other than English at home represent almost half of all students in the Providence Public School District, with Spanish language speakers the overwhelming majority.

Leyendo will be integrated into Providence’s All-America City award-winning grade level reading mobilization plan, Providence Reads, which aims to boost the number of student reading on grade level by the end of third grade to 70 percent by 2015.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies grant is the most recent of several national recognitions that Providence has gotten for its work with students and youth. On Monday, Providence was announced as a Together for Tomorrow Challenge winner, a White House initiative that highlights community-led partnership to support struggling schools.

In September, the America’s Promise Alliance named Providence to its annual list of 100 Best Communities for Young People. Earlier this year, Providence was named an All-America City by the National Civic League for its grade-level reading plan. And the Annie E. Casey Foundation selected Providence as the first site for Evidence2Success, a new approach to investing in programs that promote healthy child development.

About Cities of Service

American cities face serious challenges and many mayors want to take advantage of every resource available to them – including the time and energy of public-spirited residents – to address those challenges. But in cities across America today, citizen service is often an underutilized or inefficiently utilized strategy by municipal governments. Founded in September 2009, Cities of Service supports mayors to leverage citizen service strategies, addressing local needs and making government more effective.

The Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund is a $2 million fund. Nearly $1 million is being granted through this initial round, with an additional $1 million available for deployment in 2013. Grantee cities were selected based on the quality of their initiatives, potential for impact, and implementation plans, among other criteria.

More than 60 mayors competed for this initial round of grants. Grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 will also support volunteer initiatives in Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Birmingham, AL; Duluth, MN; Fall River, MA; Flint, MI; Indianapolis, IN; Kalamazoo, MI; Little Rock, AR; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pierre, SD; Pittsburgh, PA; and Richmond, CA.

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