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June 12, 2017

How the Charleston community is helping 800 kids curb summer reading loss

According to the National Summer Learning Association, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading skills over the summer while their higher-income peers actually make slight gains. As a result, many students return to school in the fall reading at a lower level than they were before summer, and even further behind their higher-income classmates.

Luckily, access to interesting grade-level books makes it easier for students to retain their reading level during the months away from school. So, last month a community of literacy champions in South Carolina made summer reading a reality for more than 800 children in need of extra reading support.

Organizing a mass summer reading effort

A group of more than 200 caring individuals—many of them volunteer reading partners in South Carolina schools—joined forces to donate nearly $50,000 to support summer reading. Thanks to this community effort, every student enrolled in Reading Partners South Carolina is going home for summer with a backpack full of age- and skill-appropriate books, fun educational activities, and learning supplies.

In most regions where Reading Partners operates, summer reading programs aren’t currently built into the budget. The staff in the Charleston office had a hunch that their network of volunteer tutors and community partners would be up for the challenge of raising the extra money needed to send every student home equipped to keep their literacy learning up all summer long—and they were right!

As one supporter, Julie, said, “I feel this is a very worthwhile effort. Having a proficient reading level is the key to unlock the futures for these children.”

Community unites to benefit kids’ educations

People of all ages joined in to help with the cause. In fact, one volunteer’s 14-year-old son, Evan, set up his own fundraiser and raised $275 to support learning for kids in his community. With additional major support from Kiawah Cares, Reading with Realtors, Richard and Shara Star, The Exchange Club of Charleston, and an anonymous family foundation, the For the Love of Reading, All Summer Long campaign was a huge success for South Carolina kids. Reading Partners South Carolina’s executive director Kecia says,

We know how hard our volunteers and students work during the year, and we realized that we couldn’t let the typical “summer slide” happen to our students. The Summer Reading backpacks helps to build home libraries for our students. We know that every student has a library of self-selected, interesting, and fun books at home to practice their newly acquired reading skills building on the habit of reading that we have established throughout the year.”

The motivation to get involved was simple for Ashley, one of the first to support the campaign.

I donate because I love to read. The ability to read is a gift that we can pass from generation to generation.

One student is planning to use his summer to read books above his grade level. A second grader at Hursey Elementary grew his skills so much while working with his tutor that by the end of the year, he tested at a fourth-grade level!

When it came time to fill his own Reading Partners backpack with books for the summer, his eyes wandered from the second-grade level books to the pile of chapter books intended for fourth graders. He gave it some thought and said, “I would like to challenge myself.” Then he grabbed a chapter book, read the first page aloud to his tutor and site coordinator, and beamed with pride.

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