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The Learning Continuum

Hartford Public Library, CT

Innovation Summary

The Learning Continuum, a joint project with Hartford Public Schools and the State Department of Education, maintains yearlong learning to decrease summer learning loss, offering shared ownership of individual student success. Students are motivated to move seamlessly from joint school/library activities into a summer reading program, without initial caregiver participation.

Problem Statement

Hartford youth face a difficult road to success. Each year students drop an estimated three months of learning during the summer hiatus. Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country, and Hartford youth lie at the bottom of that gap. With 44% of children under age 18 and 56% of children under five living under the poverty level, and 48% of families speaking a language other than English at home, Hartford youth face a significant struggle towards reading proficiency. In a city where 73% of adults are functionally illiterate, parents are ill-equipped to help children with educational needs. Indeed, 77% of children under the poverty level live in homes headed by a single mother, with only 44% earning a high school diploma. Although high school graduation rates in Hartford are improving from a low of 29% four years ago, the current graduation rate rests at 62%. Many parents/caregivers naively believe that children receive all the educational assistance they need in school. They are unaware that learning must take place year-round, and that summer learning is an important factor in urban/minority academic success. When the school year abruptly ends, their children must rely solely on them to discover library and community programs. A sustained summer reading program moves these parents/caregivers out of the initial equation, and sets children directly on the path to summer success.


Hartford Public Library has collaborated with the Hartford Public Schools to create a continuum of learning that ensures the ball is never dropped, and each child has the chance to become involved in year-round learning. Year 1: The Continuum established a total of four summer reading programs (SRP): the Parent/Child SRP (birth-5), the Youth SRP, the Teen SRP, and the Child Care SRP (for caregivers in home daycares). Last year’s program served 2,610 youth, an increase of over 870% from 2011. The programs offer extensive family engagement activities, with learning luncheons, unstructured literacy play, creative workshops, home daycare visits, and tracked reading. The 2012 program created continuity through extensive publicity and school visits. Year 2: The Continuum has incorporated activities directly into the school year. A new joint leadership team plans assignments and activities that integrate learning goals and link summer learning themes and programs. Students will complete summer-themed writing assignments and activities, earning incentives for completion. Teachers will promote the program, and parents will be encouraged to attend one of ten summer learning seminars at library branches. Staff will register online up to 20,000 Hartford students before the end of the school year. After the school portion of the Continuum concludes, the Library will continue with its program for a full eleven weeks. Staff will track reading and program attendance on program software. The resulting data will provide information for the Governor’s Reading Challenge, and, most importantly, will be merged with school testing data to help determine which students, neighborhoods, and schools have succeeded in maintaining reading scores. The Learning Continuum promotes literacy in all aspects necessary to attract, retain, and educate readers.


Year 1 (2012): The Continuum was established as the go-to program. It served 2,610 youth, an increase of over 870% from 2011. Approximately 47% of participants completed half the program, reading 10 books/hours, and 26% of participants completed the entire program, reading 20 books/hours. Year 1 results indicated that a stronger connection was needed with both public and state choice schools, and the enhanced Learning Continuum was developed. Year 2 (2013): The leadership team will compare Hartford Public School students’ reading scores in May to September scores following the summer reading program. Staff will analyze individual student, neighborhood, and school success. Staff will survey participants for quality of learning experience. We anticipate that completion percentages will initially decrease with the substantially increased registration. Year 2: The Library anticipates the following outcomes: -The Continuum will register at least 40% of the over 20,000 Hartford students and 20% of children participating in school choice programs in the Greater Hartford area -40% of youth will reach the halfway point of the program (10 books/hours read) -20% of youth will complete the program (20 books/hours read) -Families will increase library usage, with summer reading program attendance and circulation increasing by at least 20% -Student reading scores will show decreased summer learning loss The leadership team will survey parents and children for performance-based, qualitative outcomes. -80% of Parent/Child and childcare caregivers will increase the amount of time spent reading with children -75% of Youth SRP participants kindergarten through grade 3 will increase out-of-school reading.