The Call

14% of Philadelphia’s 4th graders read proficiently; studies indicate that children who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade endure long term consequences: they are more likely to become a teen parent, drop out of school, end up in prison, or suffer from persistent health problems. For youth growing up in poverty, this risk is multiplied. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources and funding, many youth attending Philadelphia’s schools are not taught to read a way that is conducive to their learning style and needs.

The Action

We at Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia know that we can and must make a differences in the lives of the children we serve. In 2013 we unveiled a city wide literacy initiative designed to engage over 1500 youth annually in a multi-sensory approach to literacy education. At each Club, staff communicate with local schools to identify which students need our services and to collaborate to improve the literacy skills of participating youth. Each Literacy Center is staffed by a full time literacy supervisor, certified in the Slingerland method of instruction

 The Slingerland Approach

The multi-sensory Slingerland Approach starts with the smallest unit of sight, sound, and feel— a single letter. Expanding upon the single unit, students learning is reinforced through inter-sensory associations involving auditory, visual and movement stimulus. Often, youth struggling to read, experience a disconnection between their auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning functions. The Slingerland approach works to connect these modalities in a systematic and explicit way.

Research and Evaluation

We are in the process of establishing a partnership with a local university in order to understand and evaluate the impact of our Call to Action Literacy Initiative. The goal of this partnership is to help us understand the potential of using the Slingerland approach to literacy in an out of school setting and to establish a model for integration of in and out of school instruction.

Additional Literacy Information

For more information on our Call to Action Literacy Initiative please contact 215-735-8818 or email

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A Call to Action Literacy Initiative Outcomes:

During the 2016-2017 program year, 1,262 youth participate in our Literacy Initiative. Youth who took part in the program during the school year, completed DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) assessments in October, January and June. This Assessment, designed by the University of Oregon and administered in school districts nation-wide, is designed to assess student’s baseline skills and growth in five key areas: phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with connected text, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. Benchmark goals change as youth progress through the school year in order to align with grade-level standards. A series of one-minute measures are administered to each child to measure various early literacy skills, depending on their grade level and the time of year. The results help literacy staff to measure participant progress and identify areas in which participants need additional support. Overall participants realized tremendous growth during the 2016-17 school year, with the average score increasing by 85 percent.

We have also collected report cards from youth participating in the Literacy Initiative. Data from the first through fourth marking periods show that on average, participants reading grades increased by 0.05 grade points and their writing grades increased by 0.13 grade points.

Literacy Participants Average Grades
Subject Average Beginning of Year Average End of Year
Reading 2.83 2.88
Writing 2.69 2.82

In addition, participants reflected positively on the program. According to our literacy participant survey:

    • 85% of participants feel that the Literacy Initiative has helped them improve in school
    • 94% of participants believe that reading is important
  • 86% of participants feel that the Literacy Initiative has improved their reading ability

Literacy Initiative Supporters:

Featured Literacy Supporter:

Additional Literacy Supporters

Allen Hilles Fund

Brethren Community Foundation

Elmer Roe Deaver Foundation

Joseph Kennard Skilling Trust

Kinder Morgan Foundation

Philadelphia Insurance Company

PNC Charitable Trusts

TD Bank Charitable Foundation

UPMC Health Plans

Waste Management

Wells Fargo Foundation