More planning needed for future summer book swaps

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Literacy is the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s top priority right now, and in an attempt to keep students reading over the summer each middle and high school student went home in June with a book of their choice.

In May, the Salisbury Post spearheaded the campaign to raise the $76,000 needed to send those books home.

In addition to giving out books, the district also planned several events throughout the summer for students to come and talk about the book they read and swap books with their peers. Although the district is still collecting data about how many students read the books, the talk and swap events were not very popular.

“I really think the kids have so much going on over the summer,” said Kelly Feimster, director of instructional programs.

She pointed out that many work, attend camps, go on vacation and play sports over the summer months.

“Kids don’t want to go back to school (during the summer),” she added.

Feimster said she didn’t think attendance at the talk and swap events was a direct correlation to the number of students who read their book, however.

“I think we would be surprised to know how many did read it,” she said.

Trisha McCarty, a senior at Salisbury High School, was one of the students who read her book but couldn’t attend a book swap.

“I couldn’t attend because my mom was working when the event occurred,” McCarty said.

Erwin Middle School sixth-grader Thomas Ferguson was one of the few able to attend a book swap.

The first book he read was “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaimon. At the book swap, he received “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs.

“I heard they were good, and they were on the Battle of the Books list,” Ferguson said.

Feimster said that if school officials plan literacy events over the summer again, they will probably do things differently.

“I think we needed a longer time to plan,” she said.

Feimster mentioned planning events for the evening. Many students either work during the day over the summer, or were unable to attend because their parents were at work and couldn’t provide transportation, she said.

She also mentioned the possibility of partnering with the public library in the future.

“I think we have a strong relationship with the public library,” she said. “They’re more equipped during the summer.”

“It would be great to partner with other groups promoting summer literacy. Rowan Public Library has a terrific program,” Salisbury Post Editor Elizabeth Cook said.

Rowan Public Library’s summer events had between 75 and 100 children at many of their events, Feimster said.

She added that it would be important to make sure library events were better advertised, as well.

“I’m not sure the kids know a lot about it – or teachers either,” Feimster said.

Feimster said the students will use the books they received over the summer throughout the school year for different projects.

“We knew this would be a work in progress — an experimental year. I hope after the school system reviews the program and tweaks it, the Post will have an opportunity to help again next year,” Cook said. “Giving a book to a child is like planting a seed. You don’t know if or when it will take root, and the final result could be way down the road.”

She added that organizers are “truly grateful to the people who donated money for the program. They helped put books in the hands of children who otherwise might not have had anything to read over the summer. That is what this effort was all about.”