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Elizabeth Cook: Help us shore up students’ reading skills

How to give

Donations to Impact Summer Reading may be made in several ways:

— By check or cash to the school of the donor’s choice. Checks should be made out to the school, with “Impact Summer Reading” in the memo line.
— To the Rowan-Salisbury School System, with “Impact Summer Reading” in the memo line. Please mail to Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Attn: Tara Trexler, P.O. Box 2349, Salisbury, NC 28145-2349 or drop off at one of the school administrative sites located at 314 N. Ellis St, Salisbury or 110 S. Long St, East Spencer
— By credit card online at https://www.fftc.org/impact-summer-reading-program. Note that credit card companies take a 3 percent fee, approximately, out of each transaction.
— For those who make their donations through Foundations for the Carolinas, call Meg Dees at 704-224-8840.

A month from now, students  in the Rowan-Salisbury system will rush out of school, eager for summer vacation.

No more pencils, no more books, no more … Well, you know.

There’s serious concern about part of that childhood rhyme — no more books.

Students’ academic skills don’t just take a vacation in the summer. Like sand on the beach, they erode.

When classes resume each fall, many young people have lost ground. And the further behind they were to begin with, the greater the difficulty of recovering that ground.

There’s a way we as a community can shore up the beach and decrease summer learning loss — a way we can continue to prepare the workforce of tomorrow, even in June, July and August.

We can make sure every student has a book to read.

Dr. Lynn Moody, Rowan-Salisbury superintendent, recently shared a list of initiatives to help turn around the decline in local test scores, programs that go beyond what the schools can do within their budgets.

The Salisbury Post is stepping up to lead a fund drive for one of those initiatives, a summer reading program for middle and high school students.

Literacy is near and dear to the Post as a newspaper that serves readers.  Literacy is also important to the Post as a business that wants to see this market thrive. Our community cannot move forward if we all take a business-as-usual, let-government-do-it attitude. We have to get involved.

So today the Post launches a fund drive for the Impact Summer Reading Program, with a goal of raising $76,000 in one short month. It’s an ambitious goal, and we need your help.

The Post is kicking off the fund with an initial donation of  $500 and a commitment to conduct the drive.

We are asking every individual, business, institution and civic group to consider making a donation. The Post will list the donors and their gifts in the paper, much as we do for the Christmas Happiness Fund. We will regularly share stories to keep readers updated on how the fund drive is going.

We also invite donors to pay tribute to someone special, making their gifts in honor or memory of a relative or friend — or especially a cherished teacher.

We all have teachers to thank for the ability to read this article, for example, and for so much more. This is one way to honor them.

How it works

As Dr. Moody proposed it, the reading program would have students in middle and high schools choose books from a pre-selected list that includes several topics and genres. The books become theirs to take home and read at their leisure.

Over the course of the summer, schools will host events for the students to come together, discuss the books and take part in fun activities. Then students will be encouraged to swap books.

Don’t think that elementary school students are being left out. The schools are conducting a separate book drive for younger readers — Give 5, Read 5.

There’s some irony in this emphasis on books after months of touting the schools’ 1:1 digital conversion. Rowan-Salisbury has put technology in students’ hands as a tool to boost learning. School-issued laptops and iPads are not going home with students over the summer, though. So the focus turns back to books, no battery charge or Internet connection required.

The Impact Summer Reading Fund is no cure-all, but it is one small way each of us can help the young people of our community work toward a better future.

Studies have shown that reading comprehension scores of disadvantaged students are particularly hard hit by the extended summer break. Those students typically have fewer opportunities than their peers to practice and improve reading skills while they’re out of school.

More than half of the students in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many more   come from families that cannot afford books.

Your own children or grandchildren may have plenty of books, as well as easy access to the public library. The future of our community, though, depends on all the children. We will be known by what we do for the young people who need a helping hand.

How to give

In order for your gifts to be tax-deductible, we’re asking donors to give them directly to the schools or the school system. Personnel there will funnel the information about the gifts to the Post. More detailed information is below.

The cost per child is $7.12 per student. You may also be interested in the cost per school. Businesses that wish to adopt a school will receive recognition with each book.

You can make a donation to Impact Summer Reading several ways, listed below. Please include a note indicating how you would like your donation listed in the paper:

• To the middle or high school of the donor’s choice. Checks should be made out to the school, with “Impact Summer Reading” in the memo line.

• To the Rowan-Salisbury School System, with “Impact Summer Reading” in the memo line. Please mail to Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Attn: Tara Trexler, P.O. Box 2349, Salisbury, NC 28145-2349 or drop off at one of the school administrative sites located at 314 N. Ellis St, Salisbury or 110 S. Long St, East Spencer

• By credit card online at https://www.fftc.org/impact-summer-reading-program. Note that credit card companies take approximately a 3 percent fee out of each transaction.

• By transfer, for those who make their donations through Foundations for the Carolinas; please call Meg Dees at 704-224-8840.

Here we go

Time is short. The fund drive ends June 5.

The goal, $76,000, is more than the Post has ever raised in a fund drive. We risk falling short. But failure is certain if we don’t even try.

So we start Day One with $500. I hope to have more to report in a couple of days.

In the meantime, please think about the children in our public schools — all the children — and consider a gift to Impact Summer Reading.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post. Contact her at 704-797-4244 or elizabeth.cook@salisburypost.com.

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