200,000 Kids In Tennessee Received Free Books Over The Summer To Help Foster Reading During The Break

Governors Early Literacy Foundation

Tennessee has decided to embark on an ambitious initiative to counteract the potential learning regression that tends to happen during the summer break. And they plan to do this by supplying surprise books to nearly a quarter million young readers to keep their passion for reading alive.

The Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) has taken a commendable stride by extending its K-3 Home Library program. Now, this initiative encompasses all students transitioning to 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades within the public school system. Collaborating closely with Scholastic Publishing, the program is set to distribute a staggering 1.2 million books to over 200,000 students, teachers, and librarians over the summer months.

In an effort to ensure accessibility and inclusivity, six specially curated sets of grade-appropriate books will be delivered directly to the doorsteps of participating families. The best part? This endeavor incurs no financial burden for families or the 152 school districts involved.

Enrollment in this program was automatic for students in school districts and charter schools, accompanied by an option for families to opt-out if desired. This streamlined approach has facilitated participation for all K-3 students, resulting in a 40,000-student increase compared to the previous year.

One parent from Warren County, who joined the program last summer, said, “My son struggles to read but is making improvements by the week. These couldn’t have come at a more perfect time!”

Moreover, a Morgan County educator also pointed out that when schools are closed for the summer, the access to get books to read lessens. “Many of our students do not have access to books at home so this is a great program to get books into students’ hands.”

GELF President, James Pond, says, “If we don’t get reading right, everything else can go wrong. Our goal is to promote a culture of reading in Tennessee by meeting students where they are with the books and resources they need to become lifelong learners—and we hope other states look to us as a leader in collaborative early literacy efforts.”

Research underscores the significance of summer reading: students who abstain from reading during this break can experience a setback of two to three months in their reading proficiency. However, engaging with four to six books has the potential to counteract, mitigate, or even reverse this “summer side.”

Notably, this marks GELF’s fourth consecutive summer of collaboration with Scholastic to disseminate books. Since 2020, the K-3 Home Library program has witnessed an impressive expansion of 528%, placing more than 3.1 million books within the households of over 509,000 elementary school students and educators.

Feedback gathered by GELF sheds light on the profound impact of this endeavor. A remarkable 97% of parents reported their children’s excitement upon receiving these books, deeming them invaluable additions to their family’s literary resources.

The selection of these books, which includes titles like “Three Hens and a Peacock” – a story of newcomers grabbing attention while the hardworking hens remain unnoticed, and “The Squirrels Who Squabbled” – narrating the escapades of two competitive squirrels in pursuit of pinecones, was a collaborative effort guided by GELF’s Educator Advisory Council, composed of 28 Tennessee educators who represent diverse perspectives and experiences.


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