New Haven, CT – An Urban Community with 19 Distinct Neighborhoods

Celebrating its eleventh year with READy for the Grade, New Haven Free Public Library’s Wilson Branch offered more hours and unique educational activities in 2023. Educators offered sight word practice with live musical accompaniment, bi-lingual reading aloud, and movement and arts-based literacy activities, plus family nights, puppet shows, and health and nutrition tips. NHFPL also ran READy for the Grade at the Stetson Branch, in the Dixwell Q-House Community Center. In its second year, Stetson’s programming included 2 hours of group learning per week with optional individual instruction following each group session, plus weekly family literacy celebrations. Mindfulness techniques were a popular feature of Stetson’s programming that helped families and students.

NHFPL Wilson Branch ran 565 hours of programming over 6 weeks, offering a total of 40 hours of programming per child.

17 children participated an average of 33 hours, including family nights.

At Wilson, weekly instruction included 1 hour of individual tutoring per child and 4 hours of group work.

100% of children who attended RfG Wilson maintained or improved their reading skills during the program. Some kids must continue building skills to meet grade level standards.

New Haven’s Stetson Branch offered a total of 52 hours of programming to 9 children over 6 weeks.

Using Pioneer Valley assessments, Stetson’s staff tested 7 children at the start and end of summer. 100% maintained or increased their reading skills.

What New Haven Parents Say

“I would make RfG
more frequent! Every day if possible.”

“My daughter gained a great deal of confidence. She’s still shy, but I see her raising her hand more often.”

“I like that he
learned lots of words,
even before kindergarten.”

A Window Into READy for the Grade 2023


Wilson Branch

Little girl by Wilson welcome table
Children sit on the floor in front of a woman playing guitar. Another woman writes words on a white board.
Two teachers read a book in English & Spanish to children sitting on the floor in front of them, while a third teacher looks on.
male teacher faces us from the end of the table where four boys make crafts
A woman teaches three children writing.

The room is packed with students, parents, and siblings for family night, which opens with a puppet show about health and exercise that captures the children’s full attention. Speaking in English and Spanish, the young adult puppeteers have the children laughing and interacting with the puppets. After the show, the lead presenter chats with the audience about the story’s main ideas.

Now, Miss M. pulls out her guitar and invites the children to grab an instrument or a stick with rhyming words. As Miss M. plays Down by the Bay, a call and response song with rhyming options, children hold their rhyming sticks up, so the all the students can sing for their families. She follows that song with I Can’t Spell Hippopotamus, and the fun continues for everyone.

Next up: a reading of The Paletero Man in English and Spanish by the instructor and Mrs. Berrios. Throughout the story, children make predictions and solve problems for the main character. Now, it’s time for a family craft. Each family group makes a little popsicle (paletero). On the back, each child writes sight words and facts about their favorite ice cream.

Tonight’s final activity is a popsicle-shaped piñata. Knowing the piñata holds treats, the children line up eagerly to smash it. When it breaks, sight words spill onto the floor. The children scramble to collect slips of paper, then bring their words to their tables to show off their reading skills to their families. The evening ends with a group meal and presentation of gift cards to celebrate each student’s participation and achievements.

A Window Into
READy for the Grade 2023

Stetson Branch


The New Haven Stetson Branch program meets in one of the library’s air-conditioned classrooms, a respite from the sweltering temperatures outside. After sharing the day’s plan with the 3 children present, Ms. Dabre begins the first activity. She shows the children 3 sight word flash cards at a time: 2 have new words and 1 has a familiar word. To engage their physical senses, she has each child touch the word as she reads it, or she touches the word and asks them to read it. Some words are tricky, but the students pay full attention.

Ms. Dabre challenges each child to make a sentence with today’s words. She follows the sight word activities with more literacy games, then draws from her yoga teacher training to lead the children in body-breath exercises that give their minds a break and prepare them for more learning.

Invigorated, everyone takes part in a group reading of I Don’t Want to be Small. Ms. Dabre shows the children the title page and talks about the author and illustrator. When the words are all in caps, she reads louder to show the main character’s frustration about being small. Throughout the reading, she keeps the students engaged and checks for comprehension, asking, “What happens next? Did anything work? What do you think it means when the character’s eyebrows change?”

At the end of the story, the teacher reviews key moments in the story and invites the children to imagine what they might do if they were the little boy in the book.

Finally, she gives the children a journal assignment: share something that stood out for you or describe your favorite scene. The students draw, then color their chosen story moment. Each child presents their picture to the group, reads their journal entry aloud, and answers questions. Everyone claps for each other.

At the end of the session, one child stays with Ms. Dabre for tutoring while the other two read independently in the children’s library.

For details, read the independent evaluation of READy for the Grade.

All Kids Need to Read

READy for the Grade serves a diverse population, with programs in rural, suburban, and urban communities.
The challenges of living and learning with low income vary by setting. Click the site name for details.



New Haven





Location: 195 Church Street, 7th Floor
New Haven, Connecticut 06510

Telephone: (203) 859.6600

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