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The REAL Program block party brings different communities together

Alexander Rivas enjoys an ice cream cone while lounging in The Payne Family Literacy House backyard. (Marianne Salza)

LYNN — Crystal Fernandez, a girl with face-painted cat whiskers, sat in The Book Boat, eating popcorn while browsing through a pile of books. The blue row boat is docked on the front yard of The REAL Program’s new home at The Payne Family Literacy House, on Atlantic Street, in Lynn, where families celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and block party over the weekend.

“Everybody here has come from somewhere else, and all of us come together to make one beautiful community,” said Jan Plourde, Founder/Executive Director. “We are about the future.”

The REAL Program (Reading Educational Assistance Learning) is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 to improve literacy in the community by providing books, homework help, healthy snacks and dinners, enrichment opportunities and games.

“It’s pretty nice. We do homework and they help you,” said 9-year-old Luis Shoc-Palma. “My favorite part is going to Red Rock Park and playing tag and soccer.”

The REAL Program works with children, ages 5-10 years old, and this season, which begins July 9, will be providing a kindergarten readiness program for 15 children entering kindergarten at the Brickett School.

“We’ll have painting, engineering, and building,” said Plourde about The Melden Art Studio and Maker Space. “This room will be as busy as you can imagine.”

During the festivities, families enjoyed yard games, ice cream, and fresh lemonade, and purchased zipper pulls to raise funds for the sprinkler system. The one-inch silver charms with the logo of a child reading a book were designed by Nancy Schön. The public art sculptor created the bronze ducklings in the Boston Public Garden.

“I like to give back and help nonprofits raise money. That’s very important to me,” said Schön. “I love The REAL Program and Jan. I admire her. She’s done so much.”

Plourde guided families and local officials on tours of the new facility. As an Early Childhood Education instructor at North Shore Community College, she is particularly excited about The Stellar Observation Window, designed for observational learning for teachers in training. The one-way window is located in the study, where adults are offered English language classes, and work on a green Jeep table created out of a wooden door by Moira Kiley.

To register or donate to The REAL Program, visit www.TheREALProgram.org, call (978) 993-4425, or mail a check to The REAL Program, Payne Family Literacy House, 17 Atlantic Street, Lynn, MA 01902.

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