How to Improve Struggling Readers’ Literacy Skills in Out of School Time Settings

by Hee Jin Bang, Ph.D., Director of Research & Strategic Learning

What Do Educators in Out of School Time Programs Need? Classroom, Inc.’s Digital Learning Games

As educators and parents, we all want to provide the best possible learning experiences for our children both in and out of school. Students spend nearly 75% of their time out of school, and many children, especially in families with two working parents, end up spending an increasing amount of time unsupervised. After school / out-of-school time (OST) programs can provide a safe environment, inspire learning, and prevent children from engaging in high-risk behaviors.

OST programs also offer opportunities for struggling students to receive the academic support they need to perform in school. Many program staff see youth having difficulty completing their homework assignments or not enjoying reading or writing activities. Therefore, developing youth’s literacy skills is a common interest for many OST programs serving low-income communities. While offering much-needed literacy development opportunities (that many schools fail to provide) may seem like an obvious role for OST programs, it is not easy to provide literacy focused activities in most OST settings. So how do we overcome this challenge?

A solution has been found in the Read to Lead (RTL) digital learning programs produced by Classroom, Inc. (CI), a nonprofit that has formed partnerships with OST programs in an initiative funded by the Carnegie Corporation. The RTL games, activities and projects offer content that is grounded in workplace settings and engage youth in literacy activities in a way that is much more appealing than the traditional day school program. In addition, the meaningful content fulfills adolescents’ need to be treated as mature young adults, as does the sense of agency and authority they experience as they make important decisions and self-direct their learning experiences in the virtual workplaces RTL games offer.

Results from program evaluations consistently show that our students improve not only their literacy skills, but also build problem-solving and decision making skills that are critical to success in life and careers. Click here to learn more about CI’s OST initiative, the lessons learned, its efforts to build on these lessons, and information about how to use CI programs to help your children / students.