Non-profit ‘Read to a Child’ pivots during pandemic to continue helping kids learn literacy skills

Connecticut Families

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — When News 8 visited Hartford’s Betances School in the fall of 2019, volunteers for Read to a Child showed-up at lunch once a week to share fun learning time with a student.

“Being in-person was a different experience and a little more personal, and it was nice to be in the room with other students too,” volunteer Carolyn Bighinatti said recently, commenting on the mentoring program during a pandemic.

She still spends time with Jan, a fourth grader, but now it’s on Google Meet, so that he continues to benefit from their work together, a relationship of five years.

“It’s a little bit different and not the exact way I’ve been used to it but it’s still been fun to read online, too,” says Bighinatti.

“Read to a Child just stepped right up and said, ‘We’re going to shift to a remote read aloud program,'” explains Daisy Torres of Hartford Public Schools.

She believes it’s vitally important to keep the program going to combat learning loss, a real concern.

“It hasn’t been easy but I think it has yielded some positive results,” says Torres.

A campaign – Hartford Rallies for Reading – was just launched to raise awareness and funds for the program which relies 100% on donations and grants.

“What I love about Read to a Child and this program is that it has a dual purpose – it provides social emotional supports to our students through the mentorship and provides a critical skill of read aloud,” says Torres.

Like many volunteers, Bighinatti became involved through her employer, Travelers. She and Jan always enjoy each other’s company, no matter how they get together.

“I look forward to it every week – it’s a nice break from the work day and it’s always a lot of fun,” she says.

The program will stay virtual through the end of the year but Torres hopes for a return to in-person sessions in the fall.

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