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Literacy is widely accepted as key to a student's success. Yet, data shows that literacy has been at a standstill in recent years. In order to move forward in a positive direction, it is critical that Out-of-School Time (OST) programs take an increased role in developing and growing the literacy of both young children and older youth. OST programs are well-positioned to integrate creative methods to increase students' engagement in and appreciation for writing and reading. Your United Way can work with local OST programs and coalitions to enhance the literacy component of out-of-school programs.

tools, guides, & resources for strengthening literacy programs

Literacy Strategies After School: A Teaching and Learning Strategies Guide (2013)
This in-depth guide from the Connecticut After School Network is targeted to afterschool program providers who work with elementary school children and who want to incorporate literacy-related activities into their program. This guide is aligned with the Common Core Standards in the area of English Language Arts. It offers specific teaching and learning strategies as well as suggestions for lessons related to: 1) Reading: Literature, 2) Reading: Informational Text, 3) Foundational Skills for Reading, 4) Writing, 5) Speaking and Listening, and 6) Language. Rather than separating it by grade level, it offers detailed suggestions that are relevant to programs with a mix of children from grades 1-6.

The Education Volunteer Call to Action (2011)
This United Way report highlights research in areas of volunteer reading, volunteer tutoring, and volunteer mentoring. It shares key research and best practices specific to engaging volunteers in literacy efforts, and it provides examples of United Way programs that have been successful in recruiting quality volunteer readers.

Adolescent Literacy Development in Out-of-School Time: A Practitioner's Guidebook (2010)
This guidebook is the final report from Carnegie Corporation of New York's Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy. Taking a multi-dimensional approach, this report focuses on adolescent literacy-development initiatives and ways to improve middle and high school students' processing of written and oral language. It posits some ideas for incorporation into OST programs and enhances the relatibility for programs by breaking down the guidebook into four sections — each section directly relates to one identified type of an OST program. These categories include: 1) Literacy and Academic Development, 2) Literacy Enhancement, 3) Academic Enhancement, and 4) Social Development. This is a good tool for a variety of OST programs to use to improve literacy inclusion for middle and high school youth.

You For Youth Literacy Website
Part of You For Youth’s Online Professional Learning and Technical Assistance for 21st CCLCs website, the Literacy section provides a wealth of valuable content for afterschool providers. It has an “Introduction to Literacy” section which describes the skills and knowledge literacy requires in modern times, the reasons literacy is critical to all other subjects, and the ways literacy can be incorporated into all program areas. In this section, there is also a great 5-minute video "Why Literacy Is Important." Additionally, it includes a section on "Implementation Strategies" that help put literacy ideas into practice by giving tips on facilitating learning, examples of research-based literacy activities, and suggestions for engaging families. The website also has a “Coaching My Staff” section which focuses on using literacy training materials to support staff. Finally, it has an extensive ready-to-go "Tools" section that can help your program plan, implement, and assess projects.


importance of literacy programming & program examples

Building Literacy in Afterschool (2015)
Published by the Afterschool Alliance with support from Dollar General Literacy Foundation, this issue brief covers the role of afterschool programs in targeting literacy. It discusses the necessity of additional support from afterschool programs in order for students’ reading, writing, and critical thinking skills to truly improve. It also provides examples of programs that are successfully developing the literacy skills of their children.

Using Afterschool and Summer Learning to Improve Literacy Skills (2012)
Featured in the Expanding Minds & Opportunities compendium, this article highlights steps afterschool and summer programs can take to improve the literacy skills of their students. It shares many examples of successful programs and conveys why they are successful. It also emphasizes the importance of OST program staff learning about students' backgrounds and really getting to know them, coordinating with classroom teachers, engaging parents, and taking other key steps to maximize the impact of literacy initiatives in OST programs.

Literacy Strategies That Work: How Before-School, Afterschool, and Summer Contribute to Higher Literacy Proficiency (2012)
This brief one-page resource from the Iowa Afterschool Alliance highlights four effective strategies for improving literacy including: individualized instruction, learning through play and performance, reading aloud, and expanded exposure over the summer.

Afterschool Training Toolkit: Literacy (2009)
This resource from SEDL, the National Center for Quality Afterschool, provides a basic overview of various types of literacy programs and reasons why they are important. It includes information on the importance of literacy, key elements for afterschool literacy planning, and different types of literacy practices (i.e. Read Alouds, Book Discussion Groups, Writing).


If your United Way is interested in learning what other United Ways are doing in the field of Literacy, specifically Volunteer Reading Programs, read this “Engaging Volunteers in Education: A Volunteer Reading Guide.”

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Email your Out-of-School Time reports, publications, best practices, case studies, blog articles, videos, media mentions, etc. to We will contact you if we are featuring your resource in the OST Toolkit.