"This is a 'good news' story for the children of Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket," Congressman Jim Langevin told the capacity crowd that gathered September 29 at Ready to Learn Providence to celebrate the organization's third Early Reading First award from the U.S. Department of Education.
R2LP, a program of The Providence Plan, is one of 28 nonprofit organizations and school districts nationwide selected this year from a pool of more than 450 applicants for this award. With the $3.9 million grant, R2LP will work with five early-care programs in three cities - Heritage Park YMCA Early Learning Center and Pawtucket Day Child Development Center in Pawtucket, Progreso Latino and Children's Friend Child Care Program in Central Falls, and Roger Williams Day Care Center in Providence - to create centers of educational excellence.
Over a three-year period, R2LP will provide directors, teachers and assistants at these centers with college-level courses and intensive on-site mentoring, all designed to strengthen instruction, improve teacher-child interactions and create environments that support early language and literacy development. Funding from the grant also provides the participating centers with hundreds of high-quality children's books and other classroom materials.
"The statistics are pretty clear," Langevin noted in his remarks. "If children aren't reading by third grade, it's very hard for them to catch up. This grant helps to ensure that children are prepared to succeed right from the get-go."
Other public officials attending the event included R.I. Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist and Providence Mayor David Cicciline. "I have been speaking a lot about an achievement gap in our education, but we also have a preparation gap," said Gist, a strong proponent of early education. "That gap can be resolved with high-quality early childhood programs."
"The research is unequivocal," noted Providence Mayor David Cicilline. "Making an investment in early education is the best investment we can make."
Also speaking at the event were representatives of the early-care programs participating in R2LP's newest Early Reading First program: David Caprio, Sharon Friedman, Evelyn St. George, Balbina Young and Jessica Gregory (a parent). "When our children enter kindergarten, they will hit the ground running," promised St. George, director of the 117-year-old Pawtucket Day Child Development Center.
"It's all about investing in our children and their future," said Dick Spies, chair of The Providence Plan's board of directors. "That's the highest value a community can have."
(For more details on R2LP's newest Early Reading First program, click here.)
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(Top) L-r: Dick Spies; Patrick McGuigan, executive director of The Providence Plan; Deborah Gist; Jim Langevin; and David Cicilline. (Above, left) A preschooler in one of the four centers that participated in R2LP's first Early Reading First program. (Above, right) Members of the audience and press fill the large room at the event celebrating the award.