CHARLOTTE – Promising Pages wants to prevent summer slide one book and student at a time.
The nonprofit launched its “Books on Break” initiative to ensure young people have access to age-appropriate books over the summer.
“Imagine that you go home (for summer break) and you don’t get to read a bedtime story because there are no bedtime stories,” said Kristina Cruise, founder and executive director of Promising Pages. “In fact, this is the reality for many children in our community that might not touch a single book until they come back for school in the fall.”
The nonprofit considers the initiative the largest book upcycling effort in Charlotte, with an aim to get high-interest, self-selected books directly into the hands of thousands of children who otherwise might not have access to reading materials over the summer.
Promising Pages seeks to help students in “book deserts,” areas where books are hard to obtain, particularly without access to transportation, such as the western and central parts of the county.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 48 percent of low-income CMS fourth-graders in spring 2015 reported having less than 25 books of any kind at home.
Promising Pages completed a pilot with nonprofit Read Charlotte in December 2016, in which students in nine CMS schools picked out three books to take home at a free “book fairs.”
Albemarle Road Elementary School second-grader Jakeem Mitchell received some of his favorite books from the pilot program.
“(Reading) shows us new stuff and information and it always teaches us a new lesson,” Jakeem said. “It’s important to keep reading so I can grow my knowledge.”
His teacher, Claire Murry, said the pilot benefitted students who wouldn’t normally have books at home. She said the books not only increased students’ skills, but also their interest in reading.
The second-grade teacher feels the earlier children take an interest in reading, the better, which will set them up for success later on.
Promising Pages wants to encourage students to go from “having” to read to “wanting to read,” said Kelly Cates, program director.
The nonprofits chose this initiative after the organizations found Harvard research that said if a child has access to at least five books over the summer that will diminish “summer slide,” a phenomenon in which students, particularly those from low-income families, lose achievement gains they’ve made during the previous school year over the summer.
“A child works so hard throughout the year and doesn’t have access to book because his parents are fighting for food and shelter and those really basic essentials. Children’s books just don’t make the cut,” Cruise said. “Now, they come back behind and it’s cumulative.”
Books on Break hopes to collect 80,000 books in any condition from the community, as well as talk to their children about how some kids don’t have books.
Promising Pages has hit about 25 percent of its goal, but has a long while to go, Cruise added. Volunteers also are needed to clean, process, sort and pack books to go to the schools on May 5.
If the nonprofit hits its goals, about 13 or 14 Title I schools and 10,000 students will receive books, with each child selecting five books to take home.
Visit promisingpages.org for more information.