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Summer of Fun, Summer of Reading: Operation Literacy Turns the Page on Covid

June 4, 2021

By Joel Nunez, Director of Early Literacy

Storytelling is an essential part of what it means to be human, a medium for conveying thoughts and ideas that is nearly as old as language itself. Unfortunately, one of the many things the pandemic stole from young children were the opportunities to gather for storytime. During these imagination-fostering sessions, children learn new ideas, build empathy for others, and develop the crucial building blocks to become engaged readers.

This summer, Operation Literacy hopes to bring children back into the reading circle. The campaign seeks to raise $1 million to deliver literacy activities and reading support to K-8 students enrolled in Summer Rising, a school-based program that will embed fun learning activities into the camp day.

The youngest students will partake in the Ready Readers program, which generates a love of reading through animated read-alouds and fun add-on activities. For example, after reading The Curious Garden, children may be encouraged to act like a curious flower that grows in improbable places. Ready Readers exposes students to rich and meaningful texts that promote positive self-identity, cultural and global competencies, and social-emotional learning skills.

This type of joyous learning activity has the power to reconnect books and students, many of whom may not have attended in-person school for over a year. The evidence suggests that literacy interventions are needed in order to support students as they reemerge from the pandemic after time away from teachers, mentors, and friends.

A study by Policy Analysis for California Education, a non-partisan group made up of researchers from Stanford University and several University of California schools, conducted oral reading fluency (ORF) assessments in over 100 school districts. These assessments, which looked at a critical aspect of literacy development, found that in the spring of 2021 second and third grade students were about 30 percent behind where they would have been in a typical year. The analysis also showed that the drop was even more severe in districts that have demonstrated lower historic academic performance.

Nurturing a love of reading is crucial for academic and, eventually, career success. Studies have shown that third grade reading levels are predictive of high school graduation rates. If young readers do not catch up post-pandemic, they may face an uphill struggle academically and professionally.

Even before the pandemic, educators advocated for summer reading to offset a slide in literacy skills that typically occur in the summer. One study noted that some students who read more through the summer stood to gain the equivalent of an entire month in reading proficiency. Investing in summer reading programs, therefore, could get kids back on track in time for school in the fall.

While the 2020-2021 school year was anything but normal, the need for kids to engage with books has remained constant. Continuing to practice literacy skills will only aid additional efforts to support students in the months ahead, not just academically but socially and emotionally. Afterall, reading gives children the chance to see the world from another perspective, to escape, to learn, to connect, and to grow.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the Ready Readers team and everyone at ExpandED Schools believes literacy is more important now than ever. As we embark on supporting Operational Literacy through Summer Rising, here are some books, bundled by theme, that the students will be enjoying this summer.

From our Friendship Bundle:

 A New Kind of Wild written and illustrated by Zara González Hoang.

When Ren moves from Puerto Rico to New York City, where Ava lives, he feels lost without his “wild”. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic? As Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend, especially in the middle of so much change. As our students begin to return to the classroom, their friends will be a welcome sight – especially when new situations and circumstances arise.

From our Community Bundle:

My Papi Has A Motorcycle written by Isabel Quinteor and illustrated by Zeke Peña

In this story we explore the neighborhood of a little girl as she rides on the back of her father’s motorcycle. We learn about familiar people and places and how a neighborhood can change but how people are what make it special and seem like home. Similarly, our students are returning to a changing world, but despite changes they can find comfort in their communities and friends and family.

From our Wonder and Imagination Bundle:

Layla’s Happiness written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin

 What is happiness to you? To Layla, happiness can be found all around. She finds happiness in spaces both imagined and real. In small spaces or in the laughter of others. Layla makes our readers think about what brings each of us happiness and for us to share that happiness with each other.

From our Nature Bundle:

The Curious Garden written and illustrated by Peter Brown

 Liam loves being outside and loves to garden. He finds space to grow a garden in a city that feels barren and empty. The garden has a mind of its own and is curious to explore the city as it grows and grows. Seasons change but the garden is nurtured back as the cold subsides and Liam is happy to see how the garden and nature inspires others to come outside and help the garden grow.

From our Courage Bundle:

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts

Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school…until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia wonders what she can do about the landfill to make sure no one else gets hurt. When Sofia thinks she has the right solution, she finds it is quite daunting and is told by a city clerk that she can’t build a park because she’s just a kid! Sofia knows she must be brave and uses her courage to do the right thing. We can all take a page from Sofia and be as courageous as her!

Click to see the entire reading list.

Each bundle of four books costs $77.57 or $385.85 for all five bundles. If you would like to buy books for children, please make a donation in any amount here.