Kids Read Now started as a small, local nonprofit organization and has rapidly grown into an impressive leader in the fight against K-5 learning loss. Most students, particularly those from lower income families, experience steep reading skill loss over the summer break. Creating home libraries and engaging parents are key ways to accelerating summer learning and reversing the slide associated with summer break and extended school closures.
Since 2013, Kids Read Now has mailed over two million books-to-keep. This past summer KRN served nearly 100,000 K-5 students across the country. According to Kids Read Now CEO and co-founder, Leib Lurie, “Kids Read Now is on a trajectory to mail over 7 million books to K-5 students nationwide by 2024.”
This exciting growth has highlighted the need for a new, larger fulfillment center. More books to more kids equals higher literacy rates and dreams delivered for America’s youth.
Kids Read Now’s new fulfillment center is 21,000 square feet, 33% bigger than its previous space. “This new, expanded space will help us reach our goal of serving 1 million kids each summer,” says Jim McDonald, Kids Read Now’s Fulfillment Center Manager. “Having this large, flexible space and leveraging the talented local work force made this expansion decision easy,” adds Leib.
Proud to partner with hundreds of school districts nationwide, Kids Read Now is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the singular mission to eliminate learning loss for K-5 students. Learn more about Kids Read Now at KidsReadNow.org.
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.”
TROY, Ohio (WDTN) – Every summer since 2012, the Kids Read Now organization sends books to 130 different school districts to combat “summer slide” or learning loss.
This year, as the coronavirus shut down could potentially keep kids out of school for at least 5 months, there are tens of thousands of students facing new challenges.
Leib Lurie, the founder of Kids Read Now based in Troy, says economically disadvantaged students are more vulnerable when it comes to learning loss especially during the shutdown.
“Just over half of poor households have no highspeed internet connection and only 30 [to] 40 percent only have a phone,” said Lurie. “We have a lot of parents struggling just to keep their kids fed…”
In response, the nonprofit is ramping up its program early for “Spring Fling.” Schools can enroll in the program and help their students pick a wishlist of books for the summer.
The books each come with Discovery Sheets to help students with reading comprehension. When a student is finished with a book, they text a code to a number and the next book in the queue is sent.
Lurie says more than 10,000 students are already signed up.
“We’re going to ship probably close to 600,000 books in the next eight or ten-weeks. Typically nine books reduce the summer reading slide by 27 days or 2 1/2 months of school days. Six hundred thousand books are going to get a lot of kids doing a whole lot of reading,” said Lurie.
Sending books on such a large scale does come at a cost, but it’s a price that Lurie is prepared to pay to see students succeed.
“Our mission is to improve literacy outcomes for children. So if we have to put another $1 million of cost into this to keep it going we’re going to do that,” said Lurie.
Kids Read Now is looking for volunteers as well as donations to keep their program afloat.
For more information on how you could help out click here.
Like developing anything important, building better students requires providing the right environment. This is an easier task when the children are in school. A school is filled with teachers, staff, and materials that serve the purpose of encouraging students to learn. Outside of the classroom, that encouragement is not always present. Those materials are not always available when they are at home. They do not need desks, whiteboards, or even computers to spend time learning at home. All they need are home libraries.
Having a library at home encourages students to spend time reading, and learning, outside of the classroom. Richard Allington, author of Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap, states that a handful of self-selected books could have a dramatic impact on a child’s learning over time.
In a multi-year study, he discovered that just adding 12 self-selected books to a home every summer can have the same learning impact that summer school offers. When books are convenient, it is more likely those books will be used by the students and parents. It creates a home environment that shows that reading is encouraged, especially when there are books within easy reach at all times. Helping parents build home libraries have other benefits as well:
Continuous access to books – It can be difficult for parents, especially those in low-income families, to take their children to a local library over the summer. By developing home libraries, students have easy access to books all summer long.
Topics of their choosing – Everyone is more likely to read books about topics that pique their interest. Teachers and parents can work together to build a home library of books that will encourage children to read not only through the summer but during the school year.
Familiarity with the material – Children enjoy things that are familiar. They love their favorite toys and clothes. That same love of the familiar can apply to books, especially a favorite character in a series. A beloved character can expose them to new vocabulary over the course of that series, elevating their understanding of the language.
Builds family literacy – Reading can be contagious. Once one member develops a passion for reading, it can spread to siblings and other people in the home. This has a multiplying effect of bringing more books into the home, creating a virtuous cycle of overall improved literacy for the family.
Improved academic performance – Research shows that, even when wealth and location are taken into account, more books in the home leads to greater academic performance. Owning 500 books can add 3.2 years of educational gains over time, according toResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility. Even the addition of one book can have an impact on educational gains.
Creating a friendly environment for students to read changes the environment for the whole family. Even in areas where there may not be a bookstore or community library available, home libraries offer a bridge to literacy. It extends a small part of the learning environment into every home.
Study after study shows the effect education can have on girls and young women in shaping their futures, raising their quality of life and protecting their children. Providing resources that improve women’s literacy ultimately makes the world a better place.
The benefits of an educated and literate society are undeniable. The benefits become evident when the spotlight focuses on the importance of educating women.
According to the United Nations, women make up a majority of illiterate adults in every region globally. They account for 479 million, or two-thirds, of the global adult illiterate population. The largest gaps are in South Asian areas where illiteracy rates are 23% for men, but 42% for women. In Northern Africa, it’s 17% male and 34% female. Sub-Saharan Africa sees a gap of 31% male vs. 47% female.
On a global scale, the opportunities for improvement are evident. This disparity, while not as extreme, exists in the United States. Our women also face an apparent gender-based literacy gap.
Illiteracy in women in America is reportedly 17% compared to a 10% rate for men. There’s just as much opportunity here to leveraging the closing of the gap toward furthering female empowerment.
The Council on Foreign Relations maintains that as efforts are made to improve girls’ education globally, the outcomes can positively affect economic growth, political participation, health and sustainable families.
The Council’s Center for Universal Education’s report details the benefits of making sure that children of all genders are part of an overall education effort. It specifically emphasizes the extra benefits that come from focusing on female education.
[bctt tweet=”In Norway, the presence of women in municipal councils led to direct increases in childcare coverage.”]
When women receive equal access and opportunity for education, GDP has been known to bloom. Research shows that countries with higher literacy rates have higher gross national products.
The Council on Foreign Relations references a study done in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa that found a possible causation that an equal education among men and women between 1960 and 1992 led to nearly higher annual per capita GDP growth.
According to the United Nations, literacy capacity gaps have contributed to the obstacles holding women back from assuming leadership roles in their local governments. As the gaps close, women become empowered to take on more leadership roles.
Research on local councils in India found that in areas where females led councils, the number of drinking water projects in areas was 62 percent higher than in those areas where males oversaw the councils. In Norway, the presence of women in municipal councils led to direct increases in childcare coverage.
Health, Wellness, and Disease Prevention
Education serves a crucial role globally in preventing the spread of disease and lowering infant mortality rates. The Council on Foreign Affairs indicates their research shows an extra year of a woman’s education reduces the risk that her children will die in infancy by up to 10 percent.
Education also helps prevent the spread of AIDS among children through what the offers what the World Bank refers to as a “window of hope.” A recent study of a school-based AIDS education program in Uganda found a 75 percent reduction in the likelihood that children would be sexually active in their last year of primary school.
Literacy plays a huge role in achieving smaller and more sustainable families globally.
According to the United Nations, one in every three girls globally is married before reaching the age of 18. In regions where girls receive more than seven years of education, wedding dates become delayed by four years.
A study in Brazil showed that illiterate mothers have an average of six children, according to the Council on Foreign Affairs. Mothers who are literate choose to have fewer than three children. This education makes them better able to care for and invest in their children’s well-being.
When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life. – Kofi Annan
The Council on Foreign Affairs has set forth a list of goals and expectations to help close the literacy gap globally and start educating more women. Their research has shown that as these efforts become more common throughout regions globally, including those in the United States, societies will see the benefits. Studies like these show that the efforts of literacy programs like ours, and similar ones all over the country, have a decisive impact on the future. Particularly for the literate girls we are educating today.
Children absorb much more than we give them credit. And they start to absorb it far earlier than we think they do. Studies show that babies are taking in information as early as in the womb, and their development only accelerates from there. As early as four months your child was reacting to the sound of your voice. They were not processing the information, but they did understand the tone you were using. Speaking to your child introduces them to the phonetic components of the language, components they will spend time trying to reproduce. It is not a coincidence that many toddlers first word is “No.”
Reading out loud to babies, while they may not understand the story, benefits them in other ways. The pictures in the books give their young eyes an area to focus. Reading with inflection can introduce them to different emotions and ways to use the language, as well as speech patterns. Children that are read to, and spoken to, at a younger age often have a larger vocabulary. There is a positive association made with reading; it is a comfortable place and they spend time with daddy or mommy. At younger ages (up to one year), the material itself does not matter since they do not understand the words. You can catch up on your own reading as you read to your child!
I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp. -JK Rowling
Taking the time to read with your child is an important step in reinforcing the benefits of reading. You do not have to have a great deal of time to get into this habit. A little bit a bedtime, a few pages after dinner, or maybe some time on the weekend while at a sibling’s special event can be all the time you need to start developing a love of reading. Even while shopping or cooking there are ways to incorporate reading into the activity! Make trips to the library a part of your weekly errands. Many libraries have programs to help young readers find books they will enjoy, and you can read the books together.
As they get older and want to read, the role of the parent shifts from reader to teacher. You can help them sound out words they do not understand, and explain the meanings of those words. After they are finished reading the story, ask them questions about what they just read to help them with reading comprehension. When you start to discover the books they enjoy reading, there is an opportunity to help them find similar authors. Websites like What Should I Read Next and Your Next Read can aid in finding books that are similar to the ones they enjoy. By selecting books that your child enjoys reading, it encourages them to read more.
One of the many benefits of Kids Read Now is the opportunity to find the books your child enjoys and reading it with them over the summer months. We know that book selection is critical in encouraging reading, and we send only the ones you choose. Those books are sent directly to your home on a regular basis, along with lessons to help you both get the most out of each book. They offer the ability to either read along with your child, or to allow them to read to you. Building the enjoyment of reading is something that is developed over time, by modelling the behavior early and reinforcing it as they grow. Before you know it, you will have another avid reader and lifelong learner in the house!
John Chapman was born just before the start of the American Revolution in 1774. His father was a soldier as well as a farmer, passing his wisdom to his son. John was attracted to planting orchards and set off on his own to start planting orchards through the land. Partially because he loved to work the land, but he claimed a good deal of property as well. On the frontier, if you planted fifty apple trees, you could claim the area. John owned over 1,200 acres of land doing this through five states, earning him the nickname Johnny Appleseed. He patiently developed the land he claimed, selling most of it to settlers as they moved out west. The seeds Johnny planted and quietly cultivated gave Americans a hardy apple they could call their own. The seed was the key; had he used other methods, the final result may not have been as robust or enduring.
Spending time reading with your child builds more than just literacy; it builds a love of learning.
Like Johnny discovered, focusing on development in the early stages of the process helps to develop more balanced outputs. There has been a growing movement in the country to focus more resources on early education, learning from preschool through third grade. These years are considered some of the most critical in the development of young learners. In a study done at the Perry Preschool by HighScope, there were significant benefits shown to early education. Beginning a student’s educational journey as young as age three can help increase their chances to graduate college, earn more over the course of their life, and avoid trouble with the law.
There are no barriers for starting to teach children early. Playing educational games at home or just reading to children during the day can help with a child’s development. Even parents with busy schedules can find short periods of time to read with their children or incorporate learning into daily activities. A study done by Rhode Island Hospital saw that reading to children as young as eight months old can improve their vocabulary and love of reading. Spending time reading with your child builds more than just literacy; it encourages a love of learning.
Teachers that work with younger students observe other benefits from early education. It improves attention span and concentration, two skills that are critical in learning as we go through school. It relates learning to a pleasurable experience, which in turn makes school that much more alluring. It will give your child the confidence they need to acquire new lessons and explore for themselves. And children like to copy what their elders are doing. If they see parents and grandparents reading at home, it is more likely they will want to learn to read as well. Books also expose children to a wider vocabulary than most adults use with toddlers and kindergarteners.
If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. – Confucius
Johnny Appleseed nurtured his orchards until they were ready to sell to fresh-faced settlers heading west. It was a combination of his efforts while the trees were young and the new owner’s efforts to maintain and improve the crop that gave us the apples we have today. Kids Read Now, through encouraging students to learn at home at a young age, offers parents a low maintenance way to help children develop essential learning skills. Skills that will create lifelong learners and help give them opportunities to thrive in their education.
As we head into the Labor Day holiday, we pause and look at the impact of the American worker. Appearing at the end of the 19th century, laborers have spent the first Monday in September enjoying a well-earned day of rest. Productivity has steadily increased since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first started measuring the data in the 1950’s. Manufacturing has been returning to the United States over the last few years, and minimum wages have been increasing around the country to help low-income workers earn a better salary. Add a reasonable 4.9% unemployment rate to the mix, and the job picture in the United States is a rosy one. Our highly skilled and well-educated labor force plays into those impressive statistics. Labor and literacy have a special bond, especially as our economy hums forward in the Digital Age.
The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker. -Helen Keller
Entering a workforce that increasingly uses data and technology can intimidate those with lower levels of literacy. Barriers workers have to scale to find a job start with reading the application. According to the Employment Policy Institute’s (EPI) 2010 data, over 27 million Americans do not have the reading skills needed to fill out an application. Computerized applications create another barrier to getting a job. Almost two-thirds of people at the two lowest levels of literacy are not familiar enough with a computer to input the necessary data.
The barriers are not just in the reading and comprehension of the application. The National Commission on Writing published a study titled “Writing: A Ticket to Work or a Ticket Out…”. Employers indicated that writing a weak resume or errors on an application was an instant rejection for many jobs. The study suggested that the stable, salaried jobs went to workers that proved they could read and write well. Hourly jobs required less reading and writing and went to lower-skilled employees. They are also much less stable. The unemployment rate for those with lower reading skills can be twice as high as those who can read.
When a job does open up for someone with below average literacy, they begin to experience other setbacks. They earn weekly than their better-educated peers. According to the 2002 “National Center for Education Statistics: Adult Literacy in America” report, workers at the lowest levels of literacy make $110 less per week than even average readers, and up to $450 less per week than the highest performing readers. They are employed less during the year, working only nineteen weeks.
The low wages reflect their inability to scale the corporate ladder to better paying managerial jobs. Jobs that require more reading, writing, and reporting than a minimum wage, minimum skill job. With the push for a higher minimum wage, employers will hire the candidates with the highest skills, driving some of those jobs further out of reach. Many occupations we consider to be low skilled require the ability to work a computer or read data. We have to prepare a workforce for the challenges of the increasingly knowledge-based economy.
The unemployment rate for those with lower reading skills can be twice as high as those who can read.
Kids Read Now has been celebrating the labor our students put in this summer to improve their reading skills. Investments we are making in their education now will pay off for them while they are in school. Those same advantages will continue when they leave it to go into the workplace. Students that build their reading skills are laying the foundations to improve their future. Spend a little time on Labor Day relaxing with friends and family after all the work you have done for the year, put aside some time start that book you have wanted to read. You might find a child wants to sit down and read with you.
Getting children to learn more, quicker, and at a younger age, has been a top priority among Parents and Policy Makers. This is great. However, the trouble is that a majority of people think that most learning is done in a school setting. Parents should then act like teachers while teachers and policy makers need to justify their investment in early childhood education. Creativity, playtime and imagination corners get replaced by standardized testing and rote teaching. Learning at home then becomes focused lessons to produce particular kinds of knowledge. But what about play as a learning tool? A way for children to make new discoveries through experimentation and observation?
We don’t want to produce a bunch of students that just know how to imitate but also know how to innovate.
Children have been learning and developing for thousands of years, before the invention of schools. Observation is one of the key components to a child’s ability to learn and think critically. “Experimental studies show that even the youngest children are naturally driven to imitate.” Multiple studies have been done where adults will manipulate a particular item while young children observe. Whether it be turning a light on in a box or performing various combinations on a toy to make music. Without any explicit instruction, the young children observed and created solutions to a problem. They did not just copy mindlessly but carefully observed which motions worked to make something operate. This is “active learning”. When kids play with new toys they act like scientists performing experiments. They want to know what will give them the best results and teach them about how the world works.
Teaching has its benefits, but explicit instruction can also be limiting. When a child recognizes he or she is being taught, they are more likely just to reproduce what has been shown instead of creating something new. The kind of teaching that comes with schools and parenting these days pushes children more towards imitation and away from innovation. This information age demands creativity, but we are limiting the creative outlets for children. We need to let them learn as much as we need to teach them.
“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition.” – Albert Einstein
It’s important for kids to think and wonder. Which is why our copyrighted discovery sheets inside each book are designed to elicit comments, ideas, and exploration. To make books come alive as learning tools. Even before kids can read, they learn about physics, motion, sequencing, processes, emotions, storylines, and different behaviors. A child’s naturally evolved ability to learn is more suited to creatively solving a problem than the teaching methods over the last two centuries. We want to encourage learning, innovation, and creativity. By allowing them to come to their conclusions, they recognize that there can be more than one way to problem solve or even think.
Kids Read Now, and elementary reading programs are designed to get parents involved in a child’s learning while letting kids observe and learn on their own. We want to produce students that know more than how to imitate. We want them to discover how to innovate. The Discovery Sheets are guides for exploration, and there is no one right answer. Rote teaching has its place, but it does not teach everything. We need to stop limiting creative outlets for children and start letting them explore their minds. Let young children get into everything and let them actively learn.