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Posted: 02/01/2007
Stories from the Field

Children's Aid Society
New York City, New York

Myrna Torres is the community school director for the Children's Aid Society afterschool program at PS5 in New York City, a comprehensive program that uses the afterschool hours to build on what students are learning during the school day. We interviewed Ms. Torres and asked her to describe her program and some of her students' successes.

"The Children's Aid Society serves approximately 300 students at PS5 in New York. We provide research-based curriculum activities in literacy, math, science, technology, homework help, and the arts. We collaborate with the Read Foundation and other community organizations. We also we rely on volunteers and high school students to help staff our program and read to the children.

"Recently we began a Language Immersion Through Literacy program to help recent immigrants learn English through literacy activities. We work with the school-day teachers to identify the range of skill levels and needs of English-language learners. Then we build fun activities that build specific skills. The afterschool hours give us the time we need to work with individual students and small groups. A school-day reading teacher helps out, connecting our curriculum with the school day. The activities are fun for the students, and they're learning!

"One of the things that has been a great success for us is our Expo Night. Twice a year, we provide families, the staff, and the Board of Education an opportunity to witness what the students experience and learn in the literacy program. We have literacy projects on display, a lot of written work—it's all based on things students have read. It's amazing to see parents walk away with an understanding of what their children are doing here.

"What we have found is that Expo Nights have helped increase parents' interest in what their children are doing. Parents are becoming more involved, more supportive, and that's really important, because parents are the first teachers. Parents can reinforce what is being done in school by asking questions, by picking up a book, and by modeling a desire to learn. We can't do it alone. Parents get to see their children shine, children who at the beginning of the year were shy and timid about reading. At the end of the year, someone asks who wants to read, and I see all these hands going up. They're eager to try. That's progress."

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