Schools in the city of Dayton began distributing 85,000 books to their youngest students this week as part of the Read On program to avoid summer educational slide.
The books were donated by individuals and a broad group of community partners, with 10 books going to each preschool through third-grade student in Dayton Public Schools and local charter schools.
“We had this bold, audacious goal that we kicked off on Martin Luther King Day to get 85,000 books to share,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “We were successful because of the generosity of the entire community.”
Third-graders at Fairview PreK-8 School scanned tables stacked high with children’s books Thursday, grabbing a Disney “Frozen” book here, to go with a “Wheels on the Bus” book there, as they filled their backpacks.
Whaley and others said it is important that the children got to choose their own books from those donated.
“When children get to choose, they’re more likely to pick those books up all summer long,” Whaley said. “They don’t sit in a corner collecting dust. And we’re talking about kids who don’t have books. These books are very precious to these kids.”
Fairview third-grader Al’kenzie Harris said a book from the “Minions” series is her favorite. She said she likes to follow a story through all of its details to see what the characters are doing. And she thinks her classmates will read everything they picked up Thursday.
“I think we can read all of them, because I don’t have, really, books at my house,” she said. “I only have like, five, and I really like to read books.”
Students brought home everything from movie-inspired books about Star Wars and youth biographies of Nelson Mandela, to popular series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and prize-winning classics like The Snowy Day.
Ritika Kurup, assistant director of the Ready Set Soar school readiness group, said summer slide is a serious issue to address.
“Every summer when children are gone for that long three months out of the school year, they fall behind,” Kurup said. “They fall behind almost 2 ½ months if they are not reading and engaged in learning activities.”
Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward said it’s important that families take advantage of summer opportunities.
“It’s not about children receiving 10 books and they become just a stack in the house somewhere,” Ward said. “I’m challenging the adults, our parents, our faith-based community to ensure that children have great opportunities.”
The 85,000 books collected by Read On is up from about 28,000 last year. The effort is led by Learn to Earn Dayton, Project READ, United Way of Greater Dayton and the Dayton Metro Library, with support from local churches, businesses and community groups. FirstBook, a national group providing new books to disadvantaged children, also contributed.