Literacy Package

In an effort to encourage reading over the summer, rising first through third grade students in Giles County will this week receive in the mail literacy packages as part of a program sponsored by the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) and book publisher Scholastic Inc. The books are provided at no charge to the families or school district and include five fiction and five non-fiction books, along with supplemental materials and other surprises for the students.

This pilot program was in the works before the pandemic, and its importance is now only magnified. Educators have long recognized the effects of “summer slide,” noting that students do not retain all that they learned the previous year upon returning to school in the fall. Students can lose up to a year and-a-half of learning by third grade due to summer slide.

With school closures cutting the academic year short, educators have coined the term “COVID slide” to refer to the additional learning loss that likely occurred this spring. According to Northwest Evaluation Association’s Collaborative for Student Growth brief, “Preliminary ‘COVID slide’ estimates suggest students will return in fall 2020 with roughly 70 percent of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year.”

“Third grade reading proficiency is the benchmark where children transition from learning to read to reading to learn, a key indicator for a child’s future educational success,” GELF President James Pond said. “When you create proficient readers, you create lifelong learners.”

Improved literacy increases high school graduation rates and post-secondary education enrollment, and ultimately creates an educated work force that attracts businesses to the area. Currently, only one third of Tennessee third graders are reading at grade level, so the GELF literacy program aims to provide early intervention for young readers to improve these outcomes.

“Through this collaboration, we hope to strengthen early literacy and combat summer learning loss in students by providing families with engaging books and resources, delivered right to their doorstep,” Pond said.

Parents are encouraged to work through the materials with their children over the course of the summer.

“We really value Scholastic’s partnerships,” Pond added. “They put together a really well thought-out package,” with worksheets, parents’ packs, pencils and other little goodies that make it really fun for students to receive.

The physical materials and home delivery ensure all students have equal access to the materials. Giles County teachers will also receive a duplicate package so they can reinforce the materials in the classroom.

Giles County was identified for the pilot program because it is an under-resourced area with less access to digital platforms.

Just as importantly, said Pond, “the school district was willing to work with us at the last minute. They have been a fantastic partner, and got us all the information we needed promptly.”

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