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Give Five – Read Five: Connecting schools and communities to promote summer reading

Summertime can be filled with days at the pool or beach, trips to see family and friends and spending time outside.

But for too many students, summer also means taking a break from reading.

As a result of this lack of reading practice, students lose the literacy skills they worked so hard to build during the previous school year. That is why, for the past two years, we have partnered with MetaMetrics® and others to conduct the statewide Give Five – Read Five campaign. As a part of this effort, we encourage community groups, business leaders, parents and others to donate new or gently used books to their local elementary schools. Last year, schools reported collecting and distributing more than 277,000 books to students to take home at the end of the school year. This year, we hope to collect even more.

Putting books in students’ hands is a great way to combat summer learning loss and community partners play a critical role in these efforts. In the Triangle, during the 2014 Give Five – Read Five campaign, one church youth group collected, stored, sorted and distributed more than 27,000 books for eight Garner schools. For the past few years, the nonprofit Book Harvest has conducted Books on Break to provide students in Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro schools with 10 books each to take home at the end of the school year. And for the second year in a row, Wake County Public Schools has joined with community partners to conduct Wake Up and Read. This partnership has already netted more than 113,000 books that will go to students in nine high poverty schools, 15-20 childcare centers and one community center.

There are many ways to raise awareness about the importance of summer reading at classroom and community levels.

Kathryn Gehrs is a first grade teacher at Kimberley Park Elementary School in Winston-Salem who has created a “GoFundMe” project so that 45 of her students can take a field trip to Barnes & Noble.  Thanks to the generosity of volunteers, family and friends, each of Ms. Gehrs’ first graders will be able to pick out $20 worth of their own books to take home and read over the summer along with a special book to be donated to a nearby children’s hospital.

In Granville County, English as a Second Language Director Laura Santos runs a Book Mobile Library each summer for the English Language Learners in her community.  Mrs. Santos has collected and purchased many of the books in this library herself. Each week, she drives her vehicle to a central location in the community to give families an opportunity to borrow and exchange from her library. Ms. Santos has been running her mobile library for many years now and all children and families are welcome to borrow books. These are all simple projects that can make a significant difference in a child’s academic success.

Though summer is a few months away, now is the time to think about how you can help encourage children to read during their break from the classroom. A small donation of just 5-10 books to a local elementary school can help a student begin school next year better prepared to learn. Visit the Give Five – Read Five website at to learn more.

Dr. June Atkinson

June Atkinson is the state superintendent of public instruction for North Carolina. Read her full profile here >>