The start of the school year has always been an exciting time of year for all of us at Raising A Reader Massachusetts (RAR-MA). It’s when our partners throughout the state are beginning to reopen. A time of anticipation for parents and children. A time when reading is the primary focus as we work to prepare children for Kindergarten. But these are not usual times.

The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped many aspects of our lives, and this special time of year is no different. For parents and caregivers with children in school, it’s meant difficult choices and new concerns. For parents in RAR-MA’s program, it’s meant that many of the experiences at the core of our model – in-person meetings, finding support in groups, children playing and learning together – have temporarily changed as we prioritize the safety and well-being of our community. But those changes have only made our drive and dedication to our mission stronger.

First, I would like to take a moment to thank our amazing Partners. For example, our partners have been meeting throughout the summer with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to learn about phased opening plans and making sure classrooms will continue to be safe spaces and welcoming learning environments.  Since the very early days of the pandemic, they have been working closely with RAR-MA staff to ensure the safety of parents, caregivers, and children, and working to keep the continued delivery of educational resources going. I applaud these organizations and individuals as they have worked through unimaginable difficulties to keep children and families learning.

Second, I want to congratulate the RAR-MA team. They’ve been working creatively throughout the pandemic to rethink how we can deliver our services and materials in new and innovative ways. They’ve thought through challenges that many of us could not have imagined a year ago. As summer has progressed, they’ve been collaborating with partners on plans as to how to safely reopen for the year and begin another chapter of learning. It’s exciting to see the work, innovation, and thought they’ve put into getting to this point, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team.

And last but certainly not least, I celebrate the parents and caregivers in our program. They’ve dealt with unprecedented difficulties and shifts in daily norms over the last six months. They’ve taken on even greater roles as teachers for their children and members of their community. On top of added family responsibilities, many have also had to deal with the added stressors of job loss and illness. My heart goes out to each of you. I’m grateful that we have an opportunity to lend support as you continue helping your children achieve success as readers and in life. You are heroes. We are proud to have you as part of our program, improving peoples lives by empowering them with literacy skills for lifelong learning, and making a positive impact on the literacy opportunity gap.

With all of this strategizing, some wonderful plans have been made as we begin this new year. I’d like to share some details with you:

  • We will be offering a wide range of virtual support to both parents and partners throughout the upcoming year. These include our text messaging initiative, online Storytime videos, and online meetings.
  • New health and safety guidelines established by state and federal agencies will help to ensure that every aspect of our program operates in the safest way possible. That includes new cleaning protocols for our Red Bag book program.
  • Innovative data collection will help us to continue to monitor the effectiveness of our program to ensure that our impact is as high as possible.

These are just a few of the ways that RAR-MA will be working to make this upcoming year, no matter how different it may be, one that doesn’t see a loss in foundational learning opportunities. Instead, we want this to be a year of advancement and success for our children and their families. We’re successful when they’re successful.

Thank you for your continued support. We’re looking forward to another wonderful year!

Be well.

With gratitude,

Christine Ward

Executive Director, RAR-MA