The Crisis of Post-Pandemic Early Elementary Literacy in Montgomery County MD (part FOUR of a four-part series)

The Germantown Global Connection (GGC) is a grassroots ministry of diverse, school-based families which, over the last four years, has gathered like-minded parents and kids, deployed them in service projects in and around the Germantown area, and encouraged personal growth and faith formation.

During the recent pandemic, the GGC became one of the primary delivery units for the Upcounty Hub’s (formerly, Black Rock Center Hub) massive food distribution operation, the emergency relief arm for the Parent Community Coordinator at Fox Chapel Elementary School, and a key volunteer pool for Germantown HELP.  We have assisted families in Germantown, Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Boyds, Clarksburg, and even Damascus.

In the fall of 2021, feeling called to harness our efforts as a group in a more focused manner, we began a discernment process, listening to key leaders in the community.  We learned that the Black and Brown members of our community were disproportionately affected by the recent COVID pandemic.  Youth are especially vulnerable.  Of gravest concern is the precipitous drop in literacy among elementary school students caused by the COVID-pandemic.

Garnering our resources as local families with a strong Black and Brown representation and many Spanish speakers, we hope to address this achievement gap at one elementary school by providing the after-school support so many immigrant parents are unavailable, for a variety of reasons, to offer.  With a bi-weekly after-school tutoring program, our network of volunteers, coordinated by a competent part-time staff, will offer the struggling 2nd grader both the academic enrichment and the wrap-around emotional support to make it ‘over the hump’ to literacy.

Our goal is to create and sustain a year-long literacy support network that will provide the lowest performing 2nd-graders at Watkins Mill Elementary School all the supplemental after-school tutoring and support they need to read at grade level by the end of the 2022-2023 academic year.

Learning how to read begins with a strong academic program at school.  Rather than replicate it, we will work with both the principal and 2nd grade teachers at Watkins Mill Elementary School to target the lowest-performing students and tailor a tutoring program that reinforces and solidifies the skills they learn in school.

However, economically-strapped families will need meaningful incentives to prioritize supplemental tutoring for their kids.  The nearby Stedwick Community Center, run by the local Montgomery Village Foundation, offers a setting where the whole family can be cared for: donated dinners, childcare, and ESL tutoring for adults will be options to incentivize families to participate.

Literacy readiness necessitates an academically-friendly environment at home that models and encourages reading.  Studies overwhelmingly prove the critical role family plays in a child’s reading performance (

If circumstances prevent such an environment, what hope does a child have?  If, however, they experience a safe after-school space filled with caring adults and older teens who instill the love of learning, these same students may have a chance to become readers for life.

We are soliciting funding for this project to accommodate both paid staff and volunteers along with the materials and services to sustain three components to the program:

  • a two days/week phonics-based tutoring program individually optimized for each child’s specific capabilities;
  • a fun, uplifting atmosphere at each session bolstered by snacks, hospitality, awards for progress, and lots of encouragement;
  • ongoing one-on-one personal relationships with parents and/or family members on- and off-site which connects them to resources in the community and builds their trust both in the program and in the need for their children to learn to read.

This program will have two specific measurable outcomes:

  1. Attendance: We will need at least ten (10) participants to make this program viable but 15 or more will be preferred;
  2. Scores: we will look for significant progress when comparing students’ Evidence of Learning assessment at the beginning of their 3rd grade and the same assessment the following year. We will also be in close communication with their school teacher to assess progress in smaller increments throughout the year.

More broadly, the program will show, after one year, the resources, family buy-in, and community support a struggling 2nd grader needs to catch up, which can inform the strategies of MCPS and community groups eager to close the achievement gap in the future.

The students’ ability to read at grade level and/or progress toward that goal will be the primary metric used.  While secondary benefits to the student and their family could include enthusiasm for reading, greater connection to the school, greater understanding of resources available, a more positive outlook on learning, etc., students and their guardians will understand from the beginning that the primary goal of this program is to get children reading by school year’s end so that they may stay on grade level.

There are many ways in which we are inviting members of the community to contribute to this effort – by volunteering to tutor, helping to run the program, gifts in kind, and monetary gifts.  For any of these, please go HERE.

Thank you for your interest.

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