Richmond program encourages a summer with books

Volunteers packing books for summer reading at the Richmond Public Library. Photo courtesy Bring Me A Book Foundation

Volunteers packing books for summer reading at the Richmond Public Library. Photo courtesy Bring Me A Book Foundation

Nine months of school, homework and studying are soon to be over, and Richmond’s young citizens can’t wait to start their holiday. But the summer break also brings some problems.

One of them is so called “summer learning loss” — the loss of certain knowledge and academic skills during the summer school vacation months. Studies have demonstrated that students score lower on identical standardized tests at the end of summer than they do at the beginning of summer.

But thanks to the Richmond Literacy Program, kindergarten students will have a chance to practice their reading skills during the summer holiday.  The representatives of the “Richmond Kindergarten Library Initiative” —a  joint project of the East Bay Community Foundation, the Chamberlin Family Foundation, Bring Me a Book, and the West Contra Costa Unified School District — decided to combat the problem,  by bringing more books to young children in Richmond.

“Summer is a critical moment for all students, regardless their families’ income or their performance at school,” said Nicole Taylor, president and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation. “After nine months of learning we have three months without academic experience.”

To fight learning loss, the initiative is providing schools with books for summer reading. Last week, volunteers at the Richmond Public Library stuffed more than 1,200 book bags that will be distributed to Richmond kindergarten students on or before the last day of class before summer break.

“Members of the Bring Me a Book nonprofit have selected age-appropriate, wonderful books that teach cultural sensitivity,” said Taylor.

While during a school year, students have contact with books on a daily basis, the summer months put more responsibility on parents and caregivers. Since the Richmond Literacy Program has started in October 2010, more than 330 parents and caregivers have participated in 36 reading workshops in which 664 books have been given away. The program teaches the importance of reading aloud and ways to create a daily read-aloud routine with children.

The summer months can be seen as a test of putting this knowledge into practice, although Taylor prefers to call it an opportunity. “We are happy to give parents another opportunity to encourage kids to read,” she said.

“Encouraging parents to encourage their kindergarten students to continue reading during the summer and providing the appropriate books for that reading constitute an important new dimension to our literacy program,” said Bruce Harter, Superintendent of the West Contra Costa County Unified School District.

The Richmond Literacy Program is a three-year-long initiative, launched last autumn. It aims to reach 4,200 kindergarten students in Richmond public schools with new in-class libraries and literacy training.  “Since its launch in October, the partnership has provided 49 classrooms with 1,470 books, affecting 53 teachers and about 1,200 kindergarten students,” said Taylor. “The aim of the program is to reach 70 classes in 19 schools.”

The idea behind the initiative is to provide easy access to the best children’s books and inspire reading aloud. “Study after study proves that children who have early exposure to reading and books, and who are read aloud to on a daily basis, do better in school,” said Terri Clark, executive director of Bring Me A Book, a nonprofit organization which provides access to children’s books and inspires reading aloud, by placing libraries of books in state-funded preschools, elementary schools and community centers.

You can get more information about Bring Me A Book on the organization’s website.


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