Save the Children

Save the Children, US Programs and Advocacy (USPA) has two overarching goals that go hand in hand to support children’s academic success. We want to ensure that children in rural communities where we work are socially, emotionally, and cognitively ready to enter Kindergarten and achieve proficiency in math and reading by the end of third grade. In order to achieve these goals, we have a continuum of services and programs in place to support children across the early childhood continuum from birth through the elementary years. 

Save the Children prioritizes our programmatic work in rural communities across America. Our mission is to support the most marginalized and underserved population of children. Therefore, our partner schools typically serve high populations of at-risk children, as indicated by various factors such as high percentage of children receiving F/R free or reduced lunch. We seek partners that exhibit a high level of commitment and engagement from school staff and administration, as well as those partners that are committed to strong program enrollment and continued progress towards achieving programmatic goals. School-age programs were developed with a specific audience of children in mind, and have been proven to be the most effective for children that need additional supplement literacy and math supports, are no more than 2 or 3 years below grade level in their reading and math skills, and do not have severe learning disabilities. Our school-age programs are supplemental in nature and help to meet the needs of children at risk of falling through the cracks. ​

USPA offers partner schools and communities a continuum of evidence-based developmental and educational supports, benefitting children from birth through grade 3.  These programs and services are designed to help children be ready to enter kindergarten and be proficient in reading and math by 3rd grade.  Research indicates that if children can be successful by third grade, they have a greater chance of academic success in high school and beyond.  Please note that while our programs prioritize support for children birth to third grade, often upper elementary grade children in 5th and 6th grade also participate in school-age programs.  The continuum of programming includes:​

​·      The Early Steps to School Success program that provides prenatal support to expectant mothers, a home visiting program, as well as parent child group meetings for families with children 0-3 years old. ​

·      The next phase of the continuum focuses on support for Pre-K children ages 3-5 and includes a Book Bag Exchange program, Play and Learn Groups, and KinderBoost:  a two-week transition program. ​

·      The final phase of the continuum addresses the educational needs of school-age children, by providing supplemental literacy and math programming, as well as afterschool and summer programs.​  This document will focus on the school-age programming only.

·      You will also notice that Family and Community Engagement runs across the entire continuum, as we aim to support and engage families and community partners in each stage of the continuum. ​


School-age programs are implemented in four different settings:​

The majority of our school partners implement both in school and afterschool programs; however, your school may not offer programs during each of these settings.


Whether programs are implemented before, during, or after school, or even in the summer, many of the same components can be found throughout.  ​

​Children’s literacy programming is the anchor component of our programs, especially as we aim to support 3rd grade reading proficiency for all students. We have specific literacy programming for emergent readers in Kindergarten and 1st grade, as well as for developing readers, or children in 2nd-6th grades. Supporting children’s math skills is also a key element of our work in ensuring overall academic success. Healthy Choices is another critical component, as research continues to underscore the link between children’s health and learning. And last, but certainly not least, our family and community engagement component helps to engage and support families as active partners in their children’s education.​

​In order to achieve our goal of accelerated learning, three overarching elements have been carefully considered:

·       Material Selection: Developmentally appropriate, hands-on (active, playful, engaging) activities selected are at an appropriate difficulty level.

·         Grouping Choices: Children participate in activities in ways that allow for maximum learning (whole group, small group, paired, individual).

·         Amount of Adult Support: The ratio of children to adults is 10:1. Within this, to foster independence, children receive the least amount of support for the most success. 

In addition to the elements above, all of these components are designed to accelerate children’s learning.  The phrase accelerated learning is used intentionally.  It is important to understand the difference between the terms remediation and acceleration.  In the past, remediation was the term applied to the approach used with children who were struggling with reading.  The idea was to slow down the process in order to give them more time and opportunity to learn the skills they were lacking.  It often involved starting with the most basic skills and working through layers of skill progression.  Unfortunately, this model often led to failure because slowing down the process never allowed the children to reach grade level status; they generally fell further and further behind as the years went by.

Acceleration, on the other hand, approaches the challenge from the opposite perspective.  In this model, the idea is to identify specific areas that the child needs help with, often at the broader strategy level versus the specific skill level.  After assessing current strengths and weaknesses, instruction does not start at the beginning; instead, support begins where the breakdown of understanding first occurs.  When applied to large groups of academically struggling children, another facet of the acceleration model is to identify which broad instructional practices provide the most benefit to the greatest number of children and, furthermore, which instructional practices can be best carried out by the adults who are available to work with the children in the environment in which the program is taking place.  To keep children engaged, it is crucial that all activities are engaging, interesting and motivating to the children being served.  In addition, the program is carried out by well-trained paraprofessionals and volunteers who do not necessarily have, nor do they require, a background or certification in the area of reading or mathematics pedagogy.  This program contains all of these elements. 

         Below is a brief description of what occurs during program components. 



         Extended Read-Alouds

The extended read-aloud takes place for 30 minutes within the afterschool or summer hour long Emergent Reader Literacy Block. The actual read-aloud occurs for about 15 minutes during this 30-minute period. A 5-minute Quick Vocabulary activity and 5 to 10 minutes of a choice of either an extension activity, songs or brain breaks follow it.

         Phonemic Awareness

The skill-building activity time begins with a 5-minute Phonemic Awareness Activity. During this time, activities should be selected from the book, Phonemic Awareness: Playing with Sounds to Strengthen Beginning Reading Skills, by Jo Fitzpatrick. These are designed to help strengthen essential phonemic awareness skills in order to develop into successful readers.

         Reading Together Activities

Reading together is based on the concept of lap reading, the activity that occurs between a parent and a child in the home setting where the child sits on the parent’s lap and they share a book together.  The model currently used in schools was developed in 1979 by Don Holdaway, an early childhood educator from Australia.  In this activity, a group of young children sit on the floor in front of the adult who is using enlarged text so that all of the children can easily see the print.  The adult reads aloud the first time as the children look at the print.  Following that, over the course of several days, the adult and the children chorally read and reread the same text aloud together.  Each day, after this repeated choral reading, the adult may use the text to help the children learn emergent reading skills and teach vocabulary through engaging activities  with the letters and words.     

         A Choice of Emergent Reader Modules

Activities in the emergent reader modules provide active learning opportunities for mastering the basic skills that serve as a foundation for beginning reading success and address the following emergent literacy skills: phonemic awareness, letter recognition, sound-symbol correspondence and beginning sight words. 


RAvFL (Read-Aloud, Vocabulary and Fluency-Building Activities)


The reasons for reading to children are many: to increase their background knowledge about important concepts, to familiarize them with many different types of books, to increase their vocabulary and to model fluent reading and a love for books.

       Vocabulary Enrichment

It is essential to help children develop strong vocabulary skills.  One of the greatest predictors of school success or failure when a child enters kindergarten is the extent of his vocabulary.  Teaching vocabulary improves reading comprehension, writing, word recognition and general intelligence

       Fluency-Building Support

Reading fluency is the ability to read aloud accurately, effortlessly and expressively.  Reading fluently helps children with correct pronunciation, intonation and phrasing.  It also increases reading comprehension and confidence.  Repeated readings are a way to help children recognize high-frequency words more easily and increase their fluency.  Having children practice reading by rereading short passages aloud is one of the best ways to promote fluency.

         GIRP (Guided Independent Reading Practice)

Regular opportunities to read independently provide children with increased motivation for reading, background knowledge about important concepts, vocabulary growth and the ability to read fluently.  Accelerated Reader™, a reading management software program by Renaissance Learning, is used to monitor this guided reading practice. 


The Mathematics Block incorporates between one and three activities on a daily basis in the afterschool and summer programs:  hands-on learning or math games, number sense routines, and fact fluency activities.  These engaging, interactive activities develop and reinforce children’s mathematical understanding by providing concrete experiences to support their understanding of abstract mathematics concepts. The fact fluency component includes engaging activities and games, with an emphasis on effective strategies, which will promote quick recall of basic facts. 


Healthy Choices is facilitated by the Healthy Choices Coordinator during afterschool and summer programs. Research shows that students who are healthy and physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, improved cognition, and better classroom behavior. ​

Healthy Choices has three subcomponents: healthy snack/meals, physical activity, and nutrition education. Each day in the program, children receive a healthy snack or meal provided through USDA. Children also participate in 30 minutes of Healthy Choices, which includes moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and nutrition education lessons. Children play a variety of fun and engaging, age-appropriate activities that are inclusive of all children and nutrition education lessons help to build children’s knowledge and awareness of the importance of healthy eating.  Additionally, health and literacy have been intentionally integrated within the program through nutrition vocabulary and health-related read-alouds.​

​It is also important to note that the Healthy Choices component was designed to ensure the afterschool program aligns with the National Afterschool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards.


Families play a key role as integral partners in supporting children’s educational success, therefore all programs implemented by Save the Children integrate family engagement practices. The most effective family engagement is intentionally planned and integrated within the program and across the school. High quality family engagement practices focus on relationship building, active engagement in children’s learning, effective communication, and building families’ knowledge, skills, and confidence ​to support learning at home. Community collaboration is another important element in linking families to community resources and services, as well as engaging community partners to support children’s learning and success.

Early Steps to School Success Staff

April Harris, Early Childhood Coordinator

Dorothy Grim, Kindergarten Readiness/Community Engagement Coordinator


Brooks Elementary Staff

Brianna Forrest – Program Coordinator


I. T. Montgomery Elementary Staff

Jennifer Jones – Program Coordinator


Elise Reed, Site Supervisor/Family and Community Engagement Coordinator

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