“The access to reading can put everyone on a level playing field. It opens a lot of doors for kids that might not have otherwise had those opportunities, and it makes them lifelong learners,” said Morgan Van Clief, a librarian at one of Raising A Reader MA’s (RAR-MA) partners since 2013: the Shaw School in Dorchester, MA.

The Shaw School has partnered with RAR-MA since its reopening in 2013 and has continued to work with the program in hopes of helping students and families develop the skills to be successful readers. The Shaw School, an elementary school for Pre-K and Kindergarten students in the Dorchester and Mattapan area, aims to provide students with access to a quality education with an emphasis on core values like respect, excellence, integrity, and perseverance.

Today, over 75 students participate in RAR-MA’s program at the Shaw School, which centers around dialogistic reading practices to support families and access to reading materials that students may not have access to at home through the signature Red Book Bag rotation.

One of the most impactful aspects of RAR-MA’s partnership with the Shaw School is how it has been able to engage families and get kids excited about reading all in a very accessible manner. Morgan feels that RAR-MA has helped Implementers connect with families on a more personal level, as she notes many parents/caregivers of students are non-English speakers and have, in the past, been hesitant to reach out concerning questions about reading with their children. In addition, Morgan notes that through the program faculty have been able to learn more about reading practices and how to present them in easy to implement ways, and simplify complex teaching methods through RAR-MA supplied handouts.

Though the Red Book Bags and reading practices might seem targeted to only students and their parents/caregivers, Morgan recalls one child whose experiences with the RAR-MA program positively impacted her entire family: “I remember we had a few siblings in the school and the youngest was in Pre-K and a part of the RAR-MA program, and she was so excited to bring home books in the Red Bag and share them with her parents and her older siblings. After she had read the books with her family, even the older siblings would come to talk to me about them and they were just as enthusiastic as the youngest about reading. It was definitely a moment where I could see the impact of RAR-MA helping this entire family through one sibling and just getting them all excited about reading.”

It’s not just the students that are excited about the Red Book Bag at the Shaw School. RAR-MA’s partnership has encouraged parents/caregivers to partner with RAR-MA Implementers and engage, in spite of language barriers and struggles, to open the door for many students starting their reading careers.