Today is not only the official first day of summer, it’s also National Summer Learning Day. First Book couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than by bringing 150,000 brand-new books to the National Mall to stuff into backpacks going to children in need all over the country.
The nation’s capitol is having a stretch of lovely weather this week, so our staff is joining the United Way and their army of volunteers to make this happen.
Summer is a great time of the year for readers. Instead of reading what you were told to read, you get to read whatever you want. And, if you’re lucky, you get to sit on the beach, reading and getting sunburned.
But for lots of kids, summer isn’t a time for reading. And that’s not so great, because there is a very real drop-off in achievement for kids from low-income homes. This gap puts them even further behind their more fortunate classmates, leading directly to lower test scores, lower rates of graduation and lower chances of going to college or finding good jobs.
But you can help turn it around! Visit our friends at the National Summer Learning Association to find out ways to help kids in your life, and if there’s a school or community program near you that serves kids from low-income neighborhoods, reach out to a librarian, reading teacher or program leader and tell them about First Book. Once they register with us, we can ensure they have a steady stream of new books, this summer and throughout the year.
I spend a lot of time here at First Book in Washington D.C. talking with our Recipient Groups about how to receive books, but last week I was able to experience the thrill of providing books to the children that need them most first-hand! Early Sunday morning, I packed up my laptop and left the humid heat of Washington, D.C. for the humid heat of Oklahoma City to distribute 330,000books as part of National Summer Learning Day with the help of our fantastic partners at Disney Publishing Worldwide and Feed the Children!
Upon landing in Oklahoma, Erin Carlstrom from Feed the Children met, Larry, Mitali, Rachael and myself and whisked us off to local Oklahoma City schools to help prepare for reading events which took place on June 21st, National Summer Learning Day.
The next day we had a busy schedule driving throughout Oklahoma City hosting events at three local schools. These events went off without a hitch thanks to help from the Oklahoma City Fire Department, Sheriff’s office, staff from the Lieutenant Governor’s office, Feed the Children, and local Reach out and Read employees. We spent the day discussing the importance of summer reading, our favorite places to read in the hot summer, our favorite books to read over and over by the pool – and then surprised the kids with books for them to take home and read all summer long! We even got to host a very special reading event featuring Oklahoma 2010 Book Award winner Tammi Sauer, who read, danced, and sang her book Chicken Dance to a group of elementary school children – all of whom then received a signed copy!
The next few days were spent in the warehouse, where we labeled, sorted, and shipped the rest of the 330,000 books that our partners donated to us. Groups that picked up books were ecstatic and some had driven as far as Colorado and Texas! The days were long, and hot, with temperatures reaching as high as 110 degrees in the warehouse, but we had high spirits, great help from our volunteers at Pi Beta Phi and the Junior League of Oklahoma, and a great mission – providing books to the kids who need them most to enjoy all summer, and for many summers to come. The experience went by quickly, and while it was nice to get back into the air conditioned office, the impact we felt we had made in Oklahoma and beyond made the heat worthwhile.
President Obama has addressed educational awareness through his latest act - declaring today, July 9th 2009, as National Summer Learning Day, and calling youth throughout the country to partake in service as well as extracurricular activities.
National Summer Learning Day will consist of several nonprofit sponsored events across the country. These fun filled educational activities range from a group of Chicago students from Kids Keep Learning taking a trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, to a group of Harlem kids, involved in REAL Kids reading and enrichment summer program at Harlem, participating in a formal induction for summer baseball teams.
National Summer Learning Day looks to improve the summer for all children, moving kids from the couch to the community. A decrease in reading and learning over the summer months contributes to the achievement gap between middle and lower class children. In fact, according to a study at John Hopkins University, a summer loss of 3 months results in a gap of 18 months by the end of 6th grade.
To learn more about the National Summer Learning Day, please visit www.summerlearning.org.