Where are the youth of Reading spending their free time? A recent study answered that question and so much more.
Many people who attended the presentation of the study's results at the DoubleTree Hotel in center city Wednesday morning said they weren't surprised by a lot of what they heard.
The study found that participation in out-of-school time (OST) programs in Reading is below national and state averages. It found that many students are spending a lot of time at home during the summer months, doing nothing, and that those students are frustrated and want to do more. The most significant barrier to providing more programs, however, is funding.
Heidi Williamson, Berks County Community Foundation's vice president for programs and initiatives, said what many educators already know: high-quality OST programs contribute to academic gains and social and emotional development and help close the "opportunity gap" many children living in high-poverty communities like Reading face.
Only 11 percent of Reading's youth participate in afterschool programs, compared to 18 percent nationally and 17 percent in Pennsylvania. The difference in summer program participation is even more significant: only 21 percent in Reading compared to 33 percent nationwide.