A jump start

Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, Somerville and Worcester are on the list of cities participating in an early literacy initiative called Jumpstart. Now it’s time to get Lynn and neighboring communities on that list.

With its rich history of learn-to-read initiatives, including Operation Bootstrap (now Pathways, Inc.) and a strong adult readers program linked to public schools, Lynn is an ideal community to tie in with college students to help children get a jump start on reading.

Reading remains a vital pathway to success and, ideally, the first steps on that path begin with parents reading to kids. Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Gary Soto, and Ezra Jack Keats have sparked a love of reading in generations of kids and opened the world of literature and learning to them.

According to the State House News Service, Jumpstart recruits more than 800 Massachusetts college students and adults to enhance early education for low-income students. The program is at once poignant and practical: College students who started down the long road to education by reading books as kids are paying back the early learning opportunities they received by helping young learners.

One of Jumpstart’s strongest proponents is a state legislator who witnessed the difference early exposure to reading and early education opportunities make in the lives of children living in poverty and lacking social interaction opportunities and guidance.

The News Service quoted state Rep. Jim O’Day warning about the consequences of not helping kids build a base for learning at an early age.

“There is a small piece of our population that we lose,” the News Service quoted Day as saying, “I mean we just lose them at a really, really early age and it’s painful and it’s sad and it’s a whole bunch of negative things.”

O’Day and other Jumpstart supporters say early reading has a direct connection to improving state comprehensive assessment (MCAS) scores. Lynn public schools are writing an MCAS success story and top educators can point to early reading as a reason for that success.

One of Jumpstart’s greatest assets is its power to redefine college education and broaden horizons for college students. By becoming early literacy volunteers, college students are providing role models for children who can make the connection between learning to read at a young age and growing older and pursuing education.

College is the training ground for nimble minds to pursue lifelong learning. But it is also a training ground for students to shape their lives and volunteering provides the perfect opportunity for students to understand they are not only absorbing knowledge, they are also passing it on to others.

Lynn has a ready supply of students attending North Shore Community College who would probably love to round off their work and academic résumés by volunteering with a program like Jumpstart. The Lynn Public Schools and the college have already forged a relationship and Jumpstart would be a perfect partnership with plenty of growth potential.

O’Day and other legislators are pushing to get additional state money allocated to pay for expanding Jumpstart. Chelsea and New Bedford are the next communities slated to benefit from the program. But there is no reason Lynn and Revere shouldn’t be on that list.

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