Willimantic, CT – a former mill town tucked into the state’s northeastern countryside

In its inaugural year with READy for the Grade, Willimantic started strong, offering an 8-week
in-person program that included group and individual instruction and family activities. Designed and overseen by the Library Director, the Head of the Youth Department, and coordinated by a local teacher, Willimantic RfG benefitted from a staff of seasoned educators and an occupational therapist.

17 children enrolled in READy for the Grade Willimantic, and 11 students participated throughout.

8 of those students speak English and another language at home, including Urdu, Pashto, and Spanish.

Willimantic offered 40 hours of programming per child
(5 hours per week x 8 weeks), or 348 total program hours.


Each session included a 30-minute dinner break. 

Weekly visits from Mystic Aquarium educators brought literary themes to life.

100% of the 11 students who took the easyCBM test at the start and end of the program showed maintained or improved literacy skills.

What Willimantic Parents Say

“The child to instructor ratio was great.”

“I liked how hard they worked with the kids. We learned so many things.”

“It helped keep [my son] focused and ready for the new school year.”

A window into READy for the Grade 2022


A student reads aloud in Spanish to the teacher and another student.
Literacy games reinforce reading skills.
At Willimantic’s culmination party, families celebrated achievements and learning with their children.

This evening begins like every session at Willimantic RfG, with a healthy dinner and socializing. Connected and nourished, students follow teachers upstairs to the all-purpose room in the children’s area for group activities.
It’s Bird Week here, and they’ve been reading Penguin on Vacation as a group. Before continuing the story, teachers discuss a variety of issues related to birds, including weather and facts about birds of the sea. During a Power Word practice, teachers encourage children to stand and demonstrate how seagulls fly. At last, the instructor reads the story with great enthusiasm, pausing regularly to ask children to:

  • predict what will happen,
  • define words in the story, and
  • explain what the penguins are doing.

After finishing the book, the teacher invites students to share their opinions, which in this case are all positive. Now, teachers and children review last week’s visit from the Mystic Aquarium and prepare to shift to small group activities.

Children rotate through 4 centers; each offers a different small group activity that lasts 20 minutes.

At the Art Center, each student makes a penguin. This involves learning about penguin anatomy, naming each piece of the craft design, and following directions.
At the Reading Center, the instructor helps each child choose an appropriate book for their reading level and language (English or Spanish). Students get comfy in rocking chairs and on the couch and read silently to themselves or quietly to each other. Afterward, the teacher helps them record what they read in a log.
At the Literacy Game Tables, older children play games with words, letters, and white boards. At a separate table, a younger child receives one-on-one instruction.
At the Small Group Reading station, a teacher and two children read a non-fiction book about Sea Turtles together. The teacher reads aloud, then provides each child with helpful tips as they read aloud. The children write a response to the activity, which goes into their folders. Their final activity at this center is a sight word identification game.

After the center activities end, the children return to the big rug in the all-purpose room for closing circle. Teachers give each child a popsicle. They invite each child to share one word to describe themself, as well as the reason they chose that word. As the evening winds down, the group plays a simple comparison game, asking questions like, “What’s better hamburgers or hot dogs?” until parents arrive.

For details and more data, read our  latest independent evaluation report.

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

Email: ljordan@newalliancefoundation.org
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