Reading Recovery's Ripple Effect

Guest Correspondence


Read any good books lately? If you’re someone who looks forward to tackling the venerable “summer reading list,” you probably will soon. It’s that time of year when media outlets and book purveyors start telling us which page-turners everyone will have their noses in this summer.

Many young readers in our community are putting together their own lists. For kids who love to read and are encouraged at home, weekly visits to the school media center often segue seamlessly to regular trips to the local library once summer arrives. But what about our struggling children, who may not have the means to buy books or catch rides to the library?

We now know more than ever about the real threat of “summer slide.” That’s the tendency for students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to lose learning from the past school year over the summer vacation that follows. For dozens of rising first- and second-graders in Sarasota County, however, Kids READ is a powerful (and fun) new tool to help prevent that setback and prepare students for continued gains next year.

Kids READ is a summer literacy program modeled on the highly successful Reading Recovery initiative in Sarasota County Schools. The latter, which now operates in all of the district’s elementary schools, provides intensive, one-on-one tutoring to help struggling first-grade readers. Kids READ supplements that with focused summer instruction for children who need it most. It targets both rising second-graders who may need help sustaining the trajectory they just achieved and incoming first-graders who need a prep up for the fall.

Kids READ meets these students where they’re at—summer day camps! Throughout June and July, the highly structured program will be offered to targeted students at seven sites, including Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the county, R.L Taylor Community Center in north Sarasota and SKY Family YMCA in Venice.

The program employs the same proven techniques used in Reading Recovery—by employing some of the same teachers who deliver them. These literacy experts are vital, but it still takes a community to make Kids READ happen. Philanthropists, including Gulf Coast Community Foundation donors and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, underwrite the program. The wonderful partner sites mentioned above make space available at their facilities, coordinate lessons around all of their other camp activities, and even help identify children who will benefit. Community volunteers pitch in by supporting the paid teachers as reading buddies.

Reading lessons might not be the first image to appear when you picture summer-camp fun. But the ear-to-ear smiles of children who can newly and proudly read will quickly change your mind. I can’t wait to hear how many good books our Kids READ students tell us they’ve enjoyed by the final days of summer!

Dr. Mark S. Pritchett is president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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