Raising a Reader Helps Little Learners Grow


Three of KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers help young students’ literacy grow through the Raising a Reader program.

By Sydney Kerelo

In 2019, three of KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers enacted the Raising a Reader program with hopes of connecting home and school for little learners. For years the Executive Director of KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers, Melanie Brennan, noticed how students were falling behind in their reading skills because they weren’t being exposed to books at home.

“Early exposure to literacy is significant for students’ academic success later in life,” says Literacy Facilitator Everene Williams. “I think many parents don’t know that, and we need to help them learn and understand why they should be engaging with literacy.”

The Raising a Reader program encourages early learners to engage with books at home. Each Center offering the program has red bags filled with four books that range from word lists to stem books to multicultural stories and even books written in two languages. Every Monday, the students are given a bag to take home and return on Thursday. Then the next week, they get a different bag with new books, hoping that by the end of the school year, each student will have utilized all the bags.

As a grant-funded program, only some KenCrest Centers have the funding to promote the program. The Kensington, North, and Lehigh Centers offer the program, but Brennan and Williams hope to expand it to all the Centers within the following year.

According to Williams, many of the students at the Centers have achieved great success from the program, expanding their reading abilities. One student, in particular, is on the autism spectrum and struggled to sit through the interactive literacy activities in class and at home. Their mom complained about how she wouldn’t sit still long enough to read a book and how they never really connected or were affectionate with one another. But, after beginning the Raising a Reader program, she began to enjoy reading. One book specifically taught her how to show affection to her mom, and she started hugging and kissing her mom for the first time.

“I think this program can change the lives of our young students and their families,” says Williams. “Especially those in Philadelphia because we are connected with other initial early childhood literacy initiatives throughout the City to network with anyone with the same goal in mind.”

Another aspect of Raising a Reader is family literacy, an adult education program funded through grants from the Goodling Institute for Research at Penn State that offers services like workforce training, GED training, and more. Each family involved gets one free book a month and access to the Playgroup. This program connects parents and students in an interactive literacy activity guiding families by helping them learn how to ask open-ended questions and making reading more engaging.

One parent began taking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes with KenCrest when her son participated in the Raising a Reader program. Throughout the months, her English quickly improved, and once her son aged out of the program, she was still an advocate and active participant.

Since its start in 2019, the Raising a Reader program has helped advance little learners and their families at KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers strengthen their love for literacy and will continue for years to come.

Do you live in Philadelphia? Learn more about KenCrest’s Early Learning Centers and its Raising a Reader program by clicking the link below.