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At the head of the class

At the HJCL kick-off: (l to r) Howard Sovronsky, acting executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and HJCL Chair Marge Swaye.

At the HJCL kick-off: (l to r) Howard Sovronsky, acting executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and HJCL Chair Marge Swaye.

The Hartford Jewish Coalition for Literacy (HJCL) kicked off its 2014-2015 program at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford in late October, infusing in volunteers a final dose of inspiration and advice before sending them out to become literacy mentors who work one-on-one with at-risk students in Hartford.

HJCL volunteer Eileen Rau, an ambassador from FoodShare, a Greater Hartford food bank, spoke about the devastating effects of hunger on a child’s ability to learn. Linda Gabianelli, a children’s librarian and head of children’s services at Bloomfield’s Prosser Public Library, offered tips on how to choose books for reading sessions and effectively engage children.

According to HJCL Chair Marge Swaye, close to 50 percent of third grade students in Hartford and several surrounding urban school districts are unable to read at grade level. Fifty percent of Hartford’s children also live in poverty. “Once a child falls behind in reading, chances for academic and economic success are dramatically diminished,” says Swaye.

Speaking of reading…also in October, the West Hartford Book Drive – organized by HJCL, Federation and the West Hartford Rotary – reached 1000 books.

For information on becoming a literacy mentor, email hjcl@jewishhartford.org.

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