August and September traditionally serve as the months for Meet the Teacher nights. Families file into school buildings to check out classrooms, admire bulletin boards, and inquire about policies and procedures. I am suggesting that parents make a detour on their way to classrooms this school year. Visit the school library. Yes, it’s true. School libraries often don’t receive many visitors on Meet the Teacher nights, and they need our support more than ever in 2021. Here are three ways that we can show our appreciation for school libraries and school librarians this upcoming school year.
Many school libraries operate with a certified professional and without a dedicated assistant or with an assistant and without a certified professional. Either way, those books don’t shelve themselves! An indicator of a healthy, happy library is high circulation numbers. Checking in books and getting them back on shelves can feel like an endless task, and most libraries welcome volunteers to assist with this work. Volunteering to shelve books is a great opportunity to see what kids are reading, interact with young readers, and unplug for an hour or two.
Since school libraries don’t have supply lists, they often run low on tissues, table wipes, and pencils. Ask what they need. Maybe the librarian organizes Birthday Books or Friends of the Library fundraising programs. With a cash donation, kids can select a book to insert a bookplate with their name. As a former school librarian, I can verify the joy kids experience when opening the inside front cover of a book to spy a friend’s name. It’s also likely that at some point your kids’ school will host a book fair. Some libraries rely entirely on book fair profits to acquire new materials. Debating whether to add the light-up pen or an eraser shaped like a smartphone to your stack? Go for it! Your shopping very likely helps fund new books for the library.
Despite the compelling evidence pointing to the correlation between strong school library programs and student achievement, we still see school library budgets and school librarian positions being cut nationwide. Is this happening in your community? Write an email or a letter to the School Board and Superintendent voicing your concerns. They need to hear from families about the positive outcomes associated with thriving school libraries. A school library can and should be the heart of the school. That’s not possible without the support of all stakeholders, including families.
Many parents won’t be able to volunteer time or donate resources, and that’s fine. Next time you’re in the building for a Meet the Teacher Night or another event, pop in the library. Meet the school librarian. A warm hello that says “I see you” is often more than enough.
A Reading Problem
Lack of parental involvement
Poor test scores
Low graduation rates
Those are the answers you get when you ask school superintendents and administrators what keeps them up at night. They’re also directly linked to poor reading performance in children at early grade levels. From Kindergarten through third grade, children learn to read; from grade four onward, they read to learn. Unfortunately, many students close their books at the end of the school year and don’t open one again until the following school year. That two to three months of inactivity comes with a cost in reading proficiency and, ultimately, learning.
Another cost to consider is that of the intervention specialists who must help struggling learners keep pace. Summer programs from camps to summer school cost from $1,500 to $3,500 per student and school budgets are tight.
[bctt tweet=”Statistics say that 77 percent of children whose parents read to them are more likely to read on their own.”]
The summer reading slide mostly affects low-income students. The Wallace Foundation notes that “the data tells a consistent story: children who might benefit the most, are least likely to participate in summer programs.” Children without access to libraries and with single parents swamped with making ends meet can quickly fall behind. By fourth grade, these students are a full year behind their reading-proficient contemporaries. By fifth grade, they are two to three years behind. This progression doesn’t stop there either. It will continue throughout students’ entire lives. Non-proficient readers are four times less likely to graduate by the time they finish third grade.
One question to ask in all this is What would it take to help these students? Leib and Barb Lurie crafted an answer: Kids Read Now, a 501(c)(3) founded in 2010 by Leib, a serial entrepreneur, and Barbara, a reading specialist and educator. Kids Read Now is a K-3, in-home summer reading program that gets kids to read, pass proficiency exams, and stops the summer reading slide. The program restores confidence in kids and boosts their achievement. It gets them wanting to read and wanting to learn all summer long. The program engages parents, and eases burdens on teachers and school staff. Kids Read Now has caught traction and is hailed as one of the best programs in the country by the Clinton Foundation and South by Southwest.
The basics of the program are pretty simple:
- Teachers help children choose nine books to read during summer break. (Children who choose their books are more likely to read those books.)
- Parents monitor their child’s progress and engage them to ensure that they understand what they are reading.
- Kids Read Now staff handles all the logistics from organizing the program to collecting and presenting data to school districts that shows each student’s improved reading performance.
Statistics say that 77 percent of children whose parents read to them are more likely to read on their own. That’s why parental involvement in Kids Read Now is essential. Because of the engagement parents must offer, the program likely would not succeed without them. Kids Read Now empowers parents to participate in their children’s reading. Parents receive a bilingual Parent Guide to explain the summer reading slide and grade-specific tips to keep kids excited about reading. The guide ensures parents know how to keep their children reading all summer long. Every book also comes with Discovery Sheets, discussion questions that keep comprehension levels up.
The results so far are excellent: Eighty-nine percent of parents in the program say their children read more, and 94 percent who have participated in the program recommend it.
Effective, Affordable, and Guaranteed
Kids Read Now is getting kids to read and helping school districts raise reading proficiency scores. That’s why Kids Read Now stands behind the following assertions:
It’s effective: Dr. Richard Stock, Executive Director at the University of Dayton Business Research Group, says students achieved “significant and substantial improvements in reading scores, especially in high poverty populations.”
It’s affordable: At about $60 per student, Kids Read Now can help 33 students at the same cost it takes to shuffle one student through a typical summer reading camp. State funding and foundation money are also available.
It’s guaranteed: Kids Read Now refunds one-third of cost if the program does not reverse the summer reading slide.
Do you need more information about this program? Over the next four weeks, Kids Read Now will be hosting a series of webinars to better explain our program, and to answer any questions you may have. We will be announcing on Facebook, Twitter, and this website the webinar schedule. Finally, with all this good news, the Kids Read Now webinar series hopes those superintendents and administrators will get some much-needed sleep.
People have chosen the end of the year as a special time for honoring, celebrating and giving, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. For thousands of years, people have revered this time of year for a variety of reasons and with distinctive flairs in every culture. Celebration and ceremony continues today all over the world from Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa to more specialized solstice happenings, such as Dong Zhi in China, Shab-e Yalda in Iran, and Shalako in the American Southwest.
Over the years, countless traditions have become part of the celebrations, too. It’s these traditions that give holiday celebrations their personality, whether they are simply ornamental fun or symbols of deeper meaning. Here are a few from our more common holidays.
One day during the Christmas season in Germany in the early 1600s, someone chopped down a pine tree, brought it inside, and decorated it. People apparently loved the idea, and the tradition caught on, though it was slow to take hold in the United States because it was seen as a pagan relic. Today, the Christmas tree is probably one of the most notable symbols of the Christmas season. Now people strap them to car roofs and rush them home, and it’s where everyone goes to give and receive presents.
For a several-week time span in the late fall in Iceland, publishers release a lot of books, and people buy them at a furious pace. It’s called the Christmas Book Flood, and Icelanders crowd the local bookstores seeking to extend their personal libraries. This massive book drive is also closely related to the tradition of giving books to one another on Christmas Eve. Icelanders then spend the evening reading while waiting for old St. Nick.
It would not be right to overlook the great Yule tradition of donning Christmas sweaters in holiday competition to determine who has the most obnoxious outfit. This American tradition has quite a following as a cultural trend, though it lacks the venerable pedigree of the Christmas tree or caroling. To take part, all one needs are like-minded people and a red or green sweater excessively embroidered with Christmas symbols.
Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights, and lasts for eight days. It honors the reclaiming of a Jewish temple from the Greeks about 2200 years ago. After reclaiming the temple, the people sought to light a menorah. They discovered, however, that only about one day’s worth of oil was at hand. But to everyone’s amazement, they got eight days of oil from the lamp. Since then, people who celebrate Hanukkah keep a menorah, a special candleholder, and light it each night of Hanukkah. On day one, they light one candle; on day two, they light two candles; they continue until the eighth night when all eight candles blaze.
Because of the significance of oil in the temple lamp, cooking foods in oil is an important tradition at Hanukkah. Tables overflow with fried indulgence, such as potato latkes and jelly donuts. Dairy foods are significant as well in honor of Judith, so cheesecake and blintzes are not an unusual sight.
Jewish tradition included giving money, rather than presents, at Hanukkah. Today people can still expect to see some money during Hanukkah, but they also might see another kind of currency: chocolate gelt, or chocolate coins wrapped in foil.
Relatively new to the end-of-year-celebrations, Kwanzaa sets it foundation in a desire to bring African Americans together in community. The holiday derived from a collection of traditional African harvest celebrations, and it involves storytelling, poetry, feasting and candle lighting. Kwanzaa candle lighting is similar to Hanukkah candle lighting. For Kwanzaa, people light seven candles, each corresponding to the seven principles (ideals to honor). As a candle is lit each night of Kwanzaa, people discuss one of the principles.
The sixth day of Kwanzaa brings the people together for feasting. This tradition begins with an artistic performance. Next, a ritual drinking ceremony takes place followed by a reading and drum performance. Then people eat. After the feast, the host or hostess provides a farewell speech.
The period from Thanksgiving to New Years that inspires people to go out and perform kind acts for their community. According to a 2012 Guidestar survey, 50.5% of organizations claimed majority of their donations came during the fourth quarter of the year. As the year closes, people are far more generous than at any time of the year. People open their hearts more at this period of the year for many reasons: part of it is the spirit of giving, part of it is tax deductions for the end of the year. For whatever reason, charities and nonprofits benefit greatly from this season of giving. That is why #GivingTuesday, the day after the biggest shopping weekend of the year, is so perfectly placed. With the holidays and end of the year in front of us, there are plenty of ways you can help the charities in your community.
50.5% of organizations claimed majority of their donations came during the fourth quarter of the year.
The simplest way to help is to donate money. There are many fundraising sites out there that help you give with just a click of the mouse! We are partial to Razoo, who handles our charitable donations. Indiegogo, a very popular crowdfunding site for business, offers Generosity. It is their powerful tools put to use for charity. Charity Navigator is one of the largest fundraising sites for nonprofits. You can research the company you are going to donate to and then donate without leaving the website. All of these sites have a searchable index of charities they are working with, so you can aid your favorite cause. Of course, you can just surf over to your favorite local charity’s website and donate directly to them.
You can passively give just through shopping at individual stores. Kroger has their Community Rewards Program, which Kids Read Now (#16777) is a part of, and Amazon offers their Amazon Smile Program (which works with Prime!). If you are looking for a particular charity to donate to, many of them have become savvy and started their shops. (RED) has been around for a decade, partnering with a variety of major companies to create specialty products. Purchasing those products makes a donation to HIV/AIDS research. When 826 National found a retail space for their nonprofit to help children write, it was zoned retail. To use the space (and raise some cash), they created a pirate supply store. The model stuck and a superhero supply store was born a few years later.
There is no need to have wealth to make a donation. One thing that every charity and nonprofit can use is the gift of your time. At Kids Read Now, Bonnie in the warehouse can always use some help organizing the hundreds of books we receive during the winter and ship out during the summer. Helping all of these eager readers keeps up on our toes! You can contact us at email@example.com, and we can work around your schedule. Other groups are seeing record numbers of food, clothes and toys coming through their door. They can also use help sorting and organize these generous gifts. VolunteerMatch is a website that helps match volunteers with the local nonprofit of their choice. It will provide a list of events where you can volunteer or some skills that they may need. Philanthropic groups need bookkeepers and marketers too!
No one has ever become poor by giving. ― Anne Frank
Do you have items laying around? Are you purging as you clean to get ready for guests, or to make room in the closed for more gifts? Many charities will accept those items, clean them up, and sell them as a means of revenue. You can donate everything from clothes to cars. Salvation Army and Goodwill are always willing to accept gently worn clothes, furniture, and other home goods. Goodwill even will take that car donation! Gifts to local charities and shelters are welcome as well, as many of them see more need during this time of year. Of course, if you are getting rid of any children’s books, those would be gratefully accepted. While Kids Read Now does not accept books as donations, we certainly encourage spreading the gift of reading!
No matter what you give to philanthropic pursuits, it is always greatly appreciated by those receiving it. The people receiving the donation are not the only ones that get a benefit; studies show many benefits from the individual who is donating! #GivingTuesday is an opportunity not just to give for the day, but to make a plan to volunteer for a group, set up monthly donations, or give gifts to the organizations making your community a better place. How will you help your community today?