Vargas, Fiorentini Launch ‘Haverhill Promise’ Grade Level Reading Initiative

Rep. Andy Vargas speaks at the March 19 launch of the Haverhill Promise grade level reading initiative. (WHAV News photograph)

Rep. Andy Vargas speaks at the March 19 launch of the Haverhill Promise grade level reading initiative. (WHAV News photograph)

Haverhill is ready to get city students reading at grade level—that’s a promise.

Dr. John Maddox (left) and Mayor James J. Fiorentini speak at the launch of Haverhill Promise. (WHAV News photograph)

State Rep. Andy Vargas joined Mayor James J. Fiorentini, members of the School Committee and state and local government Monday to launch the Haverhill Promise campaign for grade level reading.

The initiative, which prioritizes school readiness, attendance and summer learning, will funnel $110,000 from the City of Haverhill and the J.F Maddox Foundation into various educational and after school programs to help struggling students.

At Monday’s launch event, Vargas said a plan is in place to make readiness a community effort.

“It’s interesting that by the age of three, 85 percent of the brain’s core structure is formed, yet all of our education investment is focused on K-12,“ Vargas said. “When we talk about school readiness, we’re not just talking about pre-K: We’re talking about health, nutrition, the numbers of books in a household, a culture where parents are engaging in conversation with their child. It’s a comprehensive approach to readiness.”

Haverhill Promise has enlisted partners like the YMCA and Community Action to make parents aware of how children spend time outside of school.

District physician Dr. John Maddox, whose foundation fronted much of the overhead costs for Haverhill Promise, is confident the program will get the city get noticed in a positive way.

“It’s important to think big,” pledged Maddox. “Springfield increased their number of kids reading at grade level by 11 percent. If we can do that in Haverhill, we’ll be the best gateway city in reading levels. I think we ought to think big and think what’s possible.”

Members of Haverhill Promise plan to keep the momentum going after Monday’s launch. A “Haverhill Reads” community panel with expert presentations and feedback from local leaders is planned for April 4 at Consentino school.