Summer is the time to keep reading skills sharp; but there are broader needs.
Studies show that math skills slip even more than reading over the summer; and that even for kids who read, they need exposure to expanded content. Words they might be able to pronounce, but not understand hinder reading proficiency and frustrate children.
That’s why the Kids Read Now summer reading program for 2023 is expanding in multiple directions to make summer reading even more inviting and exciting.
First, in partnership with America’s Test Kitchens (ATK), the largest publisher of unbiased recipes for families, Kids Read Now will offer two exclusive, new cook books that kids may select to receive. One for Kindergarten through second grade, the other for young cooks in grades 3-5. The former will be things made without stoves; the latter will be more expansive. Both will feature kid tested, mother approved recipes for children to make on their own (or with a little help) over the summer. Young chefs will learn about shopping, measuring, timing, math, ingredients, utensils and more as they explore new foods and things to do to make sure summer is not a bummer.
Second, In partnership with Carson Dellosa Education (CDE) We will offer two STEM books. With do-it-yourself challenges, projects and experiments using everyday materials found at home. We will publish a version for K-2 and a more advanced one for kids in grades 3-5.
Using everyday items like tape, paper, clips, cups, pencils, food coloring, cloth, and cans; Students will learn about materials, construction, measurement, timing and more. To understand the science behind the project.
ATK cookbooks and CDE Stem books are usually on sale in hardcover or boxed versions for $15-$30.00 each; leaving them far out of reach of low income families with children at risk.
Kids Read Now will publish special low-cost paperback versions that every student can self-select as part of the books they wish to have mailed home by Kids Read Now. All to build literacy, improve reading scores and address the book deserts that can sentence poor kids to a lifetime of low literacy frustrations.
We are seeking corporate sponsors to help us publish these four new titles. Contact email@example.com for information.
The past few years have been traumatic on our kids and their families. Many have suffered steep declines in reading and math scores; compounded with the see-saw effect of remote/hybrid/in-person learning, masking, distancing and more. This left kids wondering what was next and what or where will ‘today’ be like’
In too many families, Covid took away a loved one, leaving kids with more trepidation of these and related unknowns. In other cases, parents’ emotions, jobs and schedules were at best, topsy-turvy; at worst stretching the family bounds.
Young children crave and need structure and consistency. When that falls away, they can, often do get anxious, emotional, upset, angry and fearful. This affects their ability to learn, and thrive.
Books can help.
Over half of the books in our wish list have been flagged by counselors and our literacy team as having clear and calming social emotional themes, messages, or story lines. These help children realize that their issues and problems are not unique or unbearable. That there is hope and joy to be found. Building clear messages: protagonists in these books rise to the occasion, and so can you.
We also plan to offer “It Starts With ME” written By Dr. Martin Luther King’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King and Dr. Kimberly Johnson. With the upbeat and positive message to “Be Love”.
Now, when students self-select the books they will love to read, and are at their comfortable reading level, teachers, who almost always can detect these emotional issues; can help guide children to the SEL icon that appears next to each book. Choosing books with great stories AND uplifting themes and messages of stability, heroism, overcoming adversity, love, loyalty and friendship will help our students and families emotionally build back better after Covid.
We have all heard the many issues with labor shortage affecting many aspects of our lives this year. Kids Read Now found a unique way to get more books mailed, with fewer staff hours in our fulfillment operations this summer.
Keane Manufacturing and The Greater Horizons Fund of Kansas City stepped up with prize money to sponsor a design contest.
Working with the University of Dayton’s Engineering dept, we invited student teams to design and build a faster, better way for us to bundle and mail 15,000 books every day to help 100,000 kids improve literacy over the summer.
A panel of judges narrowed down the proposals, then the final five built working prototypes. Teams were judged on sophistication, costs, speed, scalability and more. The “Flying Minions” used affordable 3D printing technology and superior ergonomic design to reduce repetitive motion strain and significantly speed up the process required to bundle books for mailing.
Thanks to these cash donations and the in-kind donation of University staff and resources, KRN reduced labour hours needed and increased productivity and output.
All to get more books to more kids in need, for less.
In 2012, my wife Barb and I were commiserating about the state of reading in the country—specifically what she, a 4th grade teacher, called ‘the dreaded summer slide’.
Far too many kids, particularly from families that struggle, head back into class every fall, with less opportunity than their peers. They are not as engaged. They struggle with review material. They hold back, as their enthusiastic and engaged classmates wave hands in the air and shout out answers.
This struggle is real. Poor children are historically woefully behind their well-off peers, and every summer, the opportunity gap widens. After failed initiatives, generational disadvantage, and Covid exacerbated opportunity disparities, 75% of poor children are not proficient in reading. Can you imagine not being able to read your textbooks in school?
Our education system is struggling, and with the recent upsets and extended breaks in learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more kids are struggling too.
Ten years ago, Kids Read Now was formed to eradicate the summer slide, which has been shown to cause 2/3 of the achievement gap between kids with opportunities and those who are at-risk and living in poverty. We just knew that a viable, successful, scalable summer literacy program could be developed and would give disadvantaged kids a real opportunity to become great readers and, in turn, give them the means to escape a life of poverty.
We have made tremendous progress. Our program has been refined and scaled. In 2022, we project that over 80,000 students in 31 states will each be gifted 9 books. Our team of educators selects popular and loved books that kids are most likely to want and to read and create a Wish List catalog of over 130 titles to choose from. By partnering with Penguin Random House and other top publishers, Kids Read Now is able to offer the best books for PreK-5 kids.
Whether we are serving a tiny remote community in Alaska or thousands of students in one of America’s largest school districts, Kids Read Now provides a turnkey approach to literacy success. We can’t wait to see what our next ten years can do for America’s future.
“I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you doing this for our kids. Some of the students in my room only read books at school because they have no books at home. So, thank you very much for helping them out… I know how much they love getting a book.” – Annie Groves, WV
How to get more books and build bigger libraries for your young readers
Parents always ask how they can expand the Kids Read Now summer reading program into the rest of the year.
Here are seven great ways to get more free or almost free books. This will keep your children building their reading skills whether school is open, they’re learning remotely, or it’s somewhere in the middle.
Ask your Principal to check out the Book Bridge program from Kids Read Now. With the Book Bridge program we will mail a book each week to your home for seven weeks. These books include fun and popular titles at your child’s reading level, and you get to get them forever!
Rent or check out books. Most public libraries are open to lend books; most have Kindle, Libby, or myON links that allow downloading eBooks to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Just call your local library! Like paper books, many favorite electronic books have a waiting list; but it’s easy to reserve books now and get them when available in a few weeks. Digital books from the library have a return date and will automatically vanish from your device when time is up.
Work with your Principal and/or PTO to have a book swap. Children bring in gently used books they have outgrown or are tired of reading, lay them out on tables, and swap for different books to take back home. This can be done with social distancing by having just a few at a time go into the swap area.
Visit used bookstores. They offer terrific titles for just a buck or two, and some even offer book-buy programs, so children can sell books they no longer want and earn money for new books! Find a list of those in your area here.
Scope out library book sales. Most local libraries have an annual book sale where a shopping bag full of books is just a few dollars! Here is a list of those sales in your area this season!
Little Free Libraries. Communities across the country have already established over 100,000 “Little Free Libraries.” These are sheltered bookshelves in public places where people are invited to leave-a-book, take-a-book. If your town doesn’t have these, it’s easy to start. Learn more here.
Barbershop Books. The barbershop book program is a new and innovative community program in cities and towns where libraries can be hard to find. Placing a set of books in barbershops aims to give young boys a safe and convenient place to get books and read with an adult (who is waiting for a haircut)!
More books at home makes a difference. Children from homes with 100 or more books are much more likely to go to advanced trade schools or college; they often go on to get high paying jobs from there as well. This is an amazing benefit just by spending a few dollars and an hour or two a month adding books to your home library. Help assure your child has books at home to practice reading skills learned in school and become a stronger, better, and more confident reader. If you have any questions about how to get more books, please contact us!
Young kids love to read the same book over and over again. Their developing brains see new things in the pictures and better understand the story each time they read it. Plus, the consistency of seeing the same story unfold the same way each time helps children develop a strong sense of sequencing and process.
Sometimes the world can be a scary place for kids, especially when families are stressed by job, healthcare, and quarantine issues. Books provide a comfortable escape and a way to see that things work out at the end of the story. So, please, don’t feel badly if you’re bored as an adult reading the same story again to or with your child. You are helping your child learn to deal with the world!
Even the smallest child can memorize a dozen of their favorite books. This repetition also helps kids remember ‘sight words’, the many words that don’t conform to phonics or ‘sounding them out’, like DOUGHNUT, which a child might try and pronounce like DOO-G-NUT or THROUGH, which phonetically should sound like THROW-GH or KNIFE may sound out as K-nife. These are called sight words, where children need to see and hear them repeatedly to know them by heart.
Reading aloud lets children hear the words and (by pointing at the words when you read) see them and match them with the story. This builds their vocabulary, and they start to understand the many ways words are used in sentences and actions to describe what is happening. This can make for a richer, deeper understanding and love for the printed word. Perhaps the most important reason to read to your child is to create a strong bond; a lasting experience of memories reading together. Give your child a sliver of your time and a big piece of your mind.
What to read? Almost anything your child loves. The most requested books we gift to kids are those with a funny story, or those that talk about gross things!
Fiction lets kids see that imagination can take them anywhere
Non-Fiction teaches them about facts and fascinating subjects of all kinds
Poetry shows that words rhyme, and it is easier to memorize rhyming words.
Kids Read Now has many “read-to-me” books. Many of the words will be too big and hard for a learning reader to read on their own; but they will understand the story and the words, especially if you stop and ask questions such as:
Let’s look at this new word. What does it mean? Can you pronounce it?
What might happen next when I turn the page? Why do you think that?
Show me all the people and animals on the page.
Show me everything with two or more colors.
What is the name of that dinosaur? (surprisingly many first-graders can name a dozen different ones, because they LOVE the subject)
No matter whether your child reads alone, or you read to him or her, encourage reading every day. Building reading skills at home is the best way to reinforce those taught in school and will make your child a better reader and a stronger student.
We call it the “achievement gap” – but isn’t it really an opportunity gap? A closer look at socioeconomic reading disparities — and how we can help your child to close the gap
For decades, efforts to reduce the racial divide on test scores has relied on federal funding to supplement efforts to boost scores among minority students, and this has seen results.
However, regardless of race, the fact is that rich and poor Americans are living, learning, and raising children in increasingly separate and unequal worlds. The income gap is huge, has not narrowed in 50 years, and leads to a large gap in test scores. For high school children, this gap averages four years between students from the highest 10% and lowest 10% income levels.
Students in poverty generally have fewer opportunities to succeed. They are less likely to have two parents at home; their parents are less likely to have a higher education. Children living in poverty generally attend schools with less experienced teachers, are less likely to have books in the home, and are more likely to have food insecurity and home life disruptions. Every one of these opportunity gaps have been shown to hurt learning progress and outcomes.
Two other situations slow down learning progress.
Ubiquitous learning loss experienced by low-income students over the summer
Recent analysis of reading tests given to most low-income students finds that learning loss over the summer varies dramatically. Our experience at Kids Read Now confirms this. Kids, regardless of race, income, or English language proficiency at home, can and do achieve markedly higher learning gains over the summer when parents are engaged, ensure kids read the books that they choose and we provide, and set time to discuss those books.
Talking about books, using the Discovery Sheets inside every book we mail boosts skills significantly. Each Discovery Sheet has questions and activities specifically written for the book. They ask kids to compare what they read with other knowledge they have and different characters they know (text-to-text and text-to-world), to discuss their feelings and experiences (text-to-self), and to go beyond the covers to write and draw stories that spring from the book to the world beyond (imagination/creativity).
Independent research shows that for less than 10 cents a day, kids in our program increase reading scores by 1-2 months over summer. The COVID-19 extended out-of-school time and difficulties with remote learning make this type of mailed reading intervention even more critical.
Rapidly growing dependency on screen time replacing reading time
Tweens spend 5-6 hours a day on screens and teens 7 hours or more on screens. We endorse a simple helper here: #ClickCaptionsON! is a great way for students in 4th grade and beyond to continue reading via captions while absorbing screen content. A dozen studies have shown this will build their reading abilities. Watching a show with captions on for just 30 minutes is the equivalent of reading 30 pages of a 5th grade book.
Closing the opportunity gap begins by having schools using parents as viable, valuable learning resources. Building and focusing on parental engagement processes are proven to work. These “parent training interventions” cost far less than traditional intervention programs that have not narrowed the gap in 50 years.
When a family clicks the CC button on their TV’s remote control, or clicks the CC option on YouTube, or video games like Fortnite, the text that appears on the screen is synchronized with the script and the on-screen action. This shows captions, or subtitles at the same speed as those on screen are speaking. Captions display only a few words at a time to better link the words spoken with the text displayed.
Watching screens with Captions ON triggers the mind to go from BI-MODAL (sound and action) into TRI-MODAL mode, where part of the brain is reading the text, part of the brain is registering the word sounds, and also registering the visual action. Camera studies show that the eye jumps back and forth between the visual and the on-screen captions.
This is the same process young readers use when a parent or teacher reads a book out loud, while showing the pictures and pointing to the words. This proven pedagogical process exposes children to text within context, in visual and auditory modes, combined with the visual action on screen. Captions do the same thing – with the huge number of channels and content for every age.
How has Caption.Cool calculated that 30 pages of screen time with Captions ON Is the equivalent of reading 30 pages of book?
First, we looked at how fast typical actors on TV shows speak, which is typically about 4-5 syllables per second, or 150 words per minute.
Then we looked at reading speeds or how fast children read. By the beginning of fourth grade, students should be reading close to Caption speed, and catch most words on shows broadcast at 150 words per minute. This speed increases each year to the adult typical speed of 250 words per minute, and speeds up more as students spend more screen time with Captions ON
Every book we mail home has a book-specific “Discovery Sheet” on the inside front cover.
PARENT TIP: For books you get from other places, you can help build reading skills by making up questions or activities like these and talk about EVERY BOOK when your child finishes reading it.
It has room for your child to write in his/her name as the proud owner of the book. Pride in book ownership is a crucial first step on the path to loving reading.
Each sticker has four activities that will help your child better understand the book and improves their reading comprehension. These are written at the reading level of the book, so kids can read them easily. Some questions suggest working on an activity and/or discussing with a parent. Questions in Read-To-Me books are designed to be done with a parent. Most can be answered by talking about them or drawing a picture. Upper-level books have fun or challenging activities that match what is being taught in class to become a stronger reader.
Typically, each sheet includes the following four categories which work together to help a child better understand the book. To think how it fits into what they have read elsewhere, already know about themselves, compare with other books or shows, and use their imagination or creativity. For example:
Text to Self:
Text-to-self connections are highly personal connections that a student makes between parts of this book and their own experiences or life. For example, “What are some of the ways these animals take care of their babies, and how is this like how your mom takes care of you?
Text to Text:
Sometimes students are reminded of other things that they have read; other books by the same author, stories from a similar genre, or perhaps on the same topic. For example, “Pick two animals in this book. How do they take care of their babies? How are they the same? Or, different?
Text to World:
Text-to-world connections are the larger connections that a student brings to this book. We learn about things through school, teachers, parents, television and videos. For example, “What would happen to most of these animals if their parents did not take care of them?” or “Have you seen a program on television that talked about animal babies? How was it the same or different from this book?” Keep asking your child to talk more about it. The more they talk about what they have seen, the more they will learn and internalize it.
Creativity / Imagination:
This activity might ask your child to do something creative, such as draw a picture, draft a letter to the author, or imagine what might happen in a sequel to this book.
Always encourage longer explanations:
Brainstorm with them! Look up new facts, make up a play, or perform a puppet show about the story.
Ask your child to use new words they may have learned in this book.
Talking more about books helps make children better readers!
The Kids Read Now app (iOS | Android) helps foreign language-speaking parents better help their children. The Discovery Sheet activities can be viewed in over 150 languages.
Racial injustice has plagued our country for centuries, and despite progress in many sectors, people of color are still overwhelmingly likely to be subject to tragic police brutality and fatal incidents. The sad incidents of the past few weeks, exacerbated by those who fan the fires of hatred and racial inequities will leave another layer of scars on all our children.
Black and Brown people in our nation are far more likely to be infected and die from the novel Corona Pandemic. The massive layoffs drag down a high percentage of Black and Brown families already struggling behind white neighbors.
The extended school shutdowns will leave children of color even further behind their peers, and more likely to be home without adequate supervision; much less access to high speed internet and full screen devices essential to leaning during this unprecedented crisis. These same children live in the scrublands of book deserts during the best of times. With summer schools and community programs cancelled or curtailed; the inequities grow starker every day.
The indisputable fact is that bias and systemic oppression of marginalized communities are deeply intertwined with many aspects of our culture and society. This is just one more form of intolerable racism that we all must work to recognize and overcome
We at Kids Read Now believe it is critical for the future of our country that we collectively and proactively engage in the difficult conversations to define equity and take action to create a more equitable system.
When I was younger, belligerent neighbors vandalized our home and a week later I was screaming in terror in the Audubon ballroom when Malcolm X was assassinated. A few years later, I was tear gassed in Washington at a peaceful demonstration that turned ugly with aggressive police presence. Sadly, this year feels like the 1960’s all over again.
We can, we will, we MUST do better.
Speaking up for the oppressed, working for justice, helping the disadvantaged is what we all need to do. Today more than ever.
Mailing 350,000 books to families over this extended summer is one way we strive for equitable home-learning, and assuring we deliver books to boost literacy, delivered to homes, overcoming the Covid quarantine measures.
We appreciate that our community of partners, educators and parents are committed to making a real difference.
My hope is that, together, we can help, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “bend the arc of history toward justice.”