From reading menus to writing job applications and emails, literacy is a skill that reaches every aspect of life. As City Year AmeriCorps Members, our job is to get all our students reading and writing on grade level to set them up for success inside and outside of the classroom. We make literacy a priority by talking about its importance with our students, observing their needs and aiming to make learning fun and engaging. With a team of 200 AmeriCorps Members, we keep the creative juices flowing, keeping our activities fresh and fun. Below are some examples of our work:


City Year gets our Students Reading

Public Library and City Year Library Access

Undoubtedly, one of the key components to literacy is reading, and vital to reading--and learning to do so--is books. A challenge that many of the schools that City Year serves in is a lack of access to engaging books at the right grade level.


Our City Year teams have worked hard to connect our students with stories they love, and have thought of cost-effective and creative ways to get books in our students' hands. Throughout many of our schools, this has resulted in dual efforts to both build our own City Year office libraries as well as handing out public library card applications to the whole school. The reception to these efforts has been incredibly positive! For example, At Warren G. Harding Middle School, the City Year library has grown to over 175 books, including corps members’ childhood favorites. In addition, City Year Philly has given out public library applications and hundreds have signed up.


You can tell the love of reading is being shared when certain genres, series, and authors are being requested. Without a doubt, the desire to read is plentiful among our students, we just need to get the books in our reader’s hands.


City Year gets our Students Writing

Poetry, Crosswords and Competitions

The other side of literacy is writing and there are many fun ways that AmeriCorps Members get our students more into writing and producing their own work. This comes in many forms including poetry, journaling, and tailored writing assignments.


Among these is the Haiku writing competition at S. Weir Elementary school. In each grade, students are encouraged to write a winter-themed haiku and submit them to City Year for the chance to win a prize. As haiku is often an unfamiliar poetry form, instructions are provided, and it gives student an opportunity to learn about other cultures.


Another example is City Year’s collaboration during spirit week at Thomas Alva Edison High School. In November, students had the opportunity to participate in a giant crossword vocabulary activity in which they wrote in their guesses on a chalkboard that corps members wheeled down to the cafeteria during lunch. It was a fun for students to collaborate together to solve.


City Year promotes Literacy as a Form of Expression

Words of the Week and Self Reflection

For older students, City Year wants students to understand that reading and writing are forms of self-expression and an important way to communicate thoughts and feelings. For example, the AmeriCorps Members at Harding Middle School developed a social justice themed “word of the week” activity. Students will have a vocabulary word each week that relates to personal development, good citizenship, and social equity. From there, students are free to write about the topic, use it in a poem, draw a picture, or whatever they choose in order to engage with the word and topic. We hope that many students will learn the new words and see how to use them.


As AmeriCorps Members, we hope that through our initiatives and service, we can help make reading and writing engaging, informative, and enthralling. In doing so, we aim to help instill a passion for words throughout our students lives!

Written by City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member, Luke Pasko serving at Warren G. Harding Middle School Team. The work of Luke and his team is made possible by Team Sponsor, Wawa.

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