After making a donation of her own, Mayor Toni Harp called on New Haven residents, companies and charitable organizations to donate iPads to New Haven Reads — a nonprofit that aims to improve literacy in the Elm City through individualized tutoring and educational family support.
Harp donated four iPad minis to New Haven Reads at a press event Monday. The donation is one of many initiatives Harp pushed forth this year to improve reading instruction for New Haven Public School students and increase the number of children and adults reading proficiently in the Elm City. Harp’s donation comes two weeks after she launched the Blue Ribbon Commission on Reading, a 39-member task force that will work with the New Haven Board of Education to improve the effectiveness of reading instruction in NHPS. Harp highlighted the importance of reading as a gateway to understanding any subject.
“I have repeatedly described my desire and my intention to have New Haven become known as the city that reads,” Harp said. “Today we’re at New Haven Reads to bring attention to the incredible work done here to help residents read and — this is the most important part — to make a donation of technology to help volunteer tutors here be more effective.”
Of the four iPads Harp presented to New Haven Reads, three came from a charitable fund Harp started last year using proceeds from her 2014 Inaugural Ball. The fund is administered by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and benefits programs for Elm City senior citizens and youth. The fourth iPad came from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who gave iPads to every mayor who attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June. Lee gave attending mayors the iPads with the understanding that when the mayors returned to their municipalities, they would donate them to local nonprofits, Harp said.
Harp said while there are plenty of worthy causes and organizations deserving of donations in New Haven, she thinks prospective benefactors should give New Haven Reads special consideration because of the important work it carries out in the city. New Haven Reads works to spread literacy through its community book bank and free one-on-one tutoring for struggling readers. Its programs have seen great success, now serving 500 students a week at three New Haven sites and supplying 130,000 books a year to Elm City residents. The organization has 400 weekly volunteers including both Yale students and New Haven residents.
New Haven Reads students will use the iPads to access a technology-based reading program called Lexia, which aims to personalize literacy instruction by monitoring students’ individual progress and adapting online curricula based on students’ strengths and weaknesses.
“We are all about reading books, but [Lexia] is an important tool that we use in order to teach the kids the tools they need to read,” New Haven Reads Executive Director Kirsten Levinsohn said.
Fiona Bradford, New Haven Reads’ assistant director, said Lexia’s curriculum makes up 20 minutes of students’ hourlong weekly tutoring sessions.
New Haven Reads now has 16 tablets for student use, thanks to Harp’s gift and a March 2015 donation of 12 iPads from Choate Rosemary Hall, a private boarding high school in Wallingford, Connecticut. Levinsohn said New Haven Reads would like to acquire 18 more iPads for its tutoring program.
“The children really appreciate and feel empowered by having their own iPad — they so enjoy it,” said Susan Netter, a tutor who sits on New Haven Reads’ Board of Directors. “Lexia is a program that supports all their reading skills and all the work we do with them.”
According to 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment results, a standardized test aligned with the Common Core curriculum, 71 percent of New Haven students in grades three through eight and grade 11 are not reading at grade level.