Philly ABCs initiative aims to curb summer learning loss

Philly ABCs Read by 4th
Read by 4th

As childhood literacy continues to be a focus of improvement nationally, one local initiative aims to help curb summer learning loss and help get students ready for the 2023-2024 Philadelphia school year.

The Free Library of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation have partnered up to join the Philly ABCs campaign led by Read by 4th.

Read by 4th

The early literacy movement is bringing free learning research citywide and vibrant alphabet signage to playgrounds across the North Philadelphia area.

“We champion reading anywhere, anytime,” said Kelly Richards, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia in a release. “The Philly ABCs campaign presents an excellent opportunity to extend our love of literacy beyond the library walls and into our community.”

Read by 4th program director Simone Partridge states in addition to the more than 100 organizational partners, about 1,000 neighborhood reading captains all came together to influence initiatives that will help city youth strive for academic success.

“One table was really looking at this concept of alphabet knowledge. It’s one indicator of early literacy success,” Partridge stated. “We had previously done an ABC poster that was really popular, but we wanted to update it so that it was aligned to support alphabet knowledge and as a way to celebrate Philly with a huge motivation to learn.”

Read by 4th

The customized alphabet posters feature the voice of local author Gerald L. Jackson who lent his talent to help families practice letter names.

Partridge adds that representation was also key with this campaign and wanted to ensure Philly students got the chance to shine bright across the city in various displayed posters.

“Kids naturally in the summer aren’t practicing the skills that they’ve used every day during the school year. So, there is a natural slip-off of some of those skills,” she said. “That dive in learning loss can be adjusted.”

According to the Philadelphia Department of Education, over 70% of city youth are reading below grade level by 4th grade.

“While the ABC song is a great learning tool, simply memorizing it doesn’t guarantee your child truly knows their letters,” said Read by 4th executive director Jenny Bogoni in a previous statement. “Children who enter Kindergarten with a grasp of letter names, shapes, and sounds are more likely to become strong readers.”

Read by 4th

The decorative, vibrant alphabet signage, as part of the Philly ABCs campaign, can be currently found at 14 city recreation centers.

  • Jerome Brown Playground, 3401 N. 20th St.
  • Joseph E. Mander Playground, 2140 N. 33rd St.
  • Hank Gathers Recreation Center, 2501 W. Diamond St.
  • Panati Playground, 3100 N. 22nd St.
  • Heritage Park Playground, 1511 W. Clearfield St.
  • Winchester Playground, 2332 N. 15th St.
  • James Allen Shuler Playground, 3000 N. 27th St.
  • Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center, 2551 N. 22nd St.
  • Napa Street Playground, 2565 N. Napa St.
  • Chalmers Playground, 2700 Chalmers Ave.
  • Martin Luther King Recreation Center, 2102 Cecil B. Moore Ave.
  • Amos Playground, 1817 N. 16th St.
  • 8th & Playground, 800 Diamond St.
  • Penrose Recreation Center, 1101 W. Susquehanna Ave.

“Building that positive relationship with learning and reading during the summer is really crucial. It doesn’t have to be like, ‘Sit down and do these drills,'” said Partridge. “But a really playful and cool experience for little ones.”

She explains that the program’s broader mission is to “protect every child’s right to read” and give families more tools to practice in family-focused environments.

Read by 4th

“Just looking around the landscape in Philly. There are fences and construction all over the place. It ends up being a great opportunity to be brightened up,” Partridge stated. “I think it’s a great way to really support the neighborhood.”

The installations, which were completed in June, will be on display through September.