Campaign encourages summer reading

Last year, Rowan-Salisbury elementary schools collected more than 13,000 books in conjunction with the statewide Give Five – Read Five campaign, and this year they’re at it again.

“It’s an attempt to reduce summer reading loss,” said Kelly Feimster, director of instructional programs.

Low-income students tend to have very few age-appropriate reading materials at home. By not having those resources and not reading over the summer, the majority of them end up reading two and a half grade levels behind their peers by the time they’re in fifth grade.

So, State Superintendent June Atkins launched a campaign last year to provide books for students to take home and read over the summer.

“We tried to send home five with each student,” Feimster said.

Seventy-four elementary schools throughout the state, including eight in the Rowan-Salisbury School System, collected new and gently used books from families, individuals and groups, in an attempt to send at least five books home with each elementary school student.

Last year, Hanford-Dole collected 3,056 books, for a total of 6.45 books per child, and Landis and Woodleaf also collected enough for their students to receive five or more books each.

Feimster said this year, the school system has reached out to community and faith-based partners asking for books or financial donations for the drive.

Each elementary school has boxes where books can be dropped off.

Rowan-Salisbury middle and high school students are getting involved in the drive as well, raising money through a “book lease” in their school media centers. The class that raises the most money will receive a breakfast at school as a reward.

The campaign will run through the middle of May.

At the end of the school year, Feimster said the plan is to take any money raised and purchase books for the students as a district, then the media coordinators from each district will distribute the books to their students.

Feimster said it can be difficult to get donations.

“We’re competing with a lot of things,” she said, adding that this time of year is full of charitable events.

The campaign is in line the district’s renewed focus on literacy, Feimster said.

Only 38.3 percent of Rowan-Salisbury third graders passed their end of grade reading tests last year.

Providing books for children to read over the summer could have an impact on that number.

Feimster said the district is also working on other reading initiatives, such as keeping more school libraries open over the summer and school-based competitions.

The district will do “anything to get these kids reading,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to get them excited.”

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