Focus on Early Childhood Literacy
The Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA) is proud to be engaged in multiple, expanding efforts aimed at eliminating the achievement gap for children growing up in public housing. The Campaign for Grade Level Reading highlights three key areas to address in order to eliminate the achievement gap: 1) School readiness, 2) Chronic absences and 3) Summer learning loss. The following is a list of initiatives and programs SHA has sponsored to do just that through effective partnership and collaboration:
- On-site voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK): SHA has partnered with A New Beginning VPK provider who has a proven track record of successfully getting disadvantaged kids ready for kindergarten. A New Beginning opened and operated a new VPK program in the summer of 2015 and is currently teaching and enriching 20 kids enrolled in the 2017-2018 VPK program at our classroom portable located within OCB (260-unit family development). A permanent VPK classroom in now open at Janie’s Garden Phase III (220-unit family development), so that we will have VPK classrooms at OCB and Janie’s Garden. Both VPK programs hold priority slots of on-site residents.
- On-site children’s library: At our SHA Learning Center at 1912 N. Orange Ave., we have established our first, on-site children’s library in out Learning Center where kids can come and read and check books out. Our Housing Choice Voucher program office also distributes free books to families with young children when they come into the office.
- Little Free Libraries: We have several little free libraries installed in and around our primary public housing community as well as Janie’s Garden to encourage children and parents to take or borrow a book to read.
- Reduce chronic absences: SHA is recognized as a leader and pacesetter in the area of working directly with the school board and individual schools to address and reduce chronic absences and get our kids in school every day. SHA has been meeting since November 2015 with the Alta Vista Principal and school personnel to plan and coordinate efforts to address each SHA child with chronic absenteeism. SHA staff have met with parents whose children have missed at least 10% of school days to counsel them on the importance of getting their kids to school on-time, each day. SHA also awards kids who have good and/or improved attendance each quarter.
- After-school homework/computer lab: SHA has been providing an after-school homework club that welcomes kids each day to come and complete their homework and then use the computer lab to utilize educational software. This program is now housed in our Learning Center. SHA now pays for local certified teachers to coach kids in reading and math skills.
- Book giveaways/Book Rich Environment: Each summer, SHA hosts multiple book giveaways. SHA partners with the Sarasota County Libraries and Sarasota Police Department as part of the national Book Rich Environment effort to distribute hundreds of free, quality children’s books.
- Summer Enrichment Camp: For the last five summers, SHA’s Resident Services has hosted a Summer Enrichment Camp. This is an eight-week summer program for kids ages 6 to 13. SHA’s students are engaged in a structured, safe and fun atmosphere that gives them the opportunity to be exposed to many new things that they may not have the chance to see otherwise. Our kids explore arts and crafts, physical fitness, field trips and tours that include Sarasota Fire Department, Florida Aquarium, Mote Marine Laboratory and Bishop Planetarium. Most importantly, all students are required to complete a minimum of 6 hours per week in educational activities and reading that can be accomplished through our educational tools such as iReady which tracks and monitors a student’s progress. SHA is a Summer BreakSpot feeding site that provides breakfast and a hot lunch to all students. This free service is open to all school aged children residing in the area.
- Celebrate Good Grades: In addition to celebrating good and improved attendance, SHA celebrates good grades as well. SHA has also printed SHA Academic All-Stars t-shirts for students who made the honor roll during the academic year.