Mercy Housing is one of the largest developers of affordable housing and has developed, preserved, or financed nearly 48,500 homes since 1981. Mercy Housing begins with housing, but goes beyond to strengthen the lives of people who call Mercy Housing home. A variety of Resident Service programs are available to residents at many of the properties across the country. Mercy Housing Resident Services has a particularly strong focus on youth and helps to address the needs of young people living in poverty.
In today’s communities strong reading skills are essential for youth to succeed in school and in society.[i] At Mercy Housing most of the youth programs currently focus on literacy being incorporated through silent reading time or reading books aloud. This created a great opportunity to conduct an evidence-based pilot for literacy programming.
The After School KidzLit™ pilot was conducted from September 2013 to May 2014. There were approximately 250 youth between the ages of 5-16 participating in youth programming. A total of 11 sites were used. The intervention sites implemented After School KidzLit™ within the existing after school program, and the comparison sites implemented the usual after school programming offered at the property.
The staff who participated in the After School pilot sites received training on positive youth development principles, techniques, and strategies for classroom management. Staff also received ten hours of training on implementing After School KidzLit™. To ensure that the curriculum was delivered and designed with consistency across sites, Mercy Housing developed a fidelity scale checklist. This checklist ensured the five main elements were being executed and it also measured the appropriateness of program space, lesson planning, and classroom management. The staffs were then able to collect pre and post-test assessments for KidzLit™ participants and the comparison groups.
The results of the After School KidzLit™ pilot were encouraging. KidzLit™ participants experienced higher levels of enjoyment in being read to, reading, writing, and discovering new words following the program. They also showed increased skills in reading, comprehension, memory, writing, and group participation. KidzLit™ participants also showed improvement in interpersonal competencies such as helping others, talking in groups, and sharing about themselves. While there was great success the pilot limitations included significant participant attrition from the comparison group.
Affordable housing organizations such as Mercy Housing face numerous challenges in sustaining these interventions. Selecting a curriculum that was adequately structured to provide a framework for training and supervision of staff, yet flexible enough to respond to the changing needs of children of varied age groups and social situations is critical to implementing sustaining evidence- based programs. Jennifer Covert, National Resident Services Director of Programs and Evaluations stated, “The After School KidzLit™ pilot demonstrated positive results and has established a platform for implementation of other evidence-based curriculum throughout our Mercy Housing properties. We are excited to help the kids continue to build strong reading skills and be successful in life.”
About Mercy Housing
Founded in 1981, Mercy Housing, a national not-for-profit affordable housing organization headquartered in Denver, has a presence in 41 states, serves more than 152,000 people on any given day and has participated in the development, financing or operation of more than 45,000 homes. Mercy Housing serves families, veterans, seniors and people with special needs (formerly homeless, people with HIV/AIDS and the developmentally disabled). For more information about Mercy Housing, please visit mercyhousing.org and follow us on Twitter at @mercyhousing.
[i] Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.