Give Five – Read Five: Small number, big results

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2016

By Dr. June Atkinson

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

The numbers seem so small – Give Five – Read Five – but like a well-tended piggy bank, all those fives begin to add up to something far bigger. That is what we are seeing with a summer reading initiative that started out modestly and has been gaining momentum in community involvement to help children keep reading right through the summer.

The idea is almost too simple. Get people to donate just five books, then give them away – five to each student – for the summer and for keeps. Since the N.C. Department of Instruction launched the Give Five – Read Five campaign three years ago, the number of books collected has increased four fold as has the number of schools with students on the receiving end. Last year alone, more than 546,000 books went home with students from 276 schools in 71 districts

Nearly 1 million books have been put in the hands of students since we started the annual campaign in 2013.

The Department of Public Instruction launched the first statewide Give Five – Read Five campaign because research from Harvard revealed that students who read just five books over the summer saw a reduction in summer learning loss. But more significant than any research findings or numbers is the enthusiasm and joy I have seen among students as they select their own new books to take home at the end of the school year and keep forever.

When I attend school and community celebrations in which donated books are distributed to excited students, it is a treat for principals, teachers, and community supporters to witness all the magic and happiness of Christmas morning these books provide for all involved. Perhaps that is why we have seen so many schools, districts, churches, businesses and nonprofit groups embrace the spirit of Give Five – Read Five and work together to to hold local book drives from April to June. Right before the end of the school year, all of these books are then distributed to students so they have access to quality reading material over the summer.

In the second year of the campaign, for example, a team of just five middle and high school students from a church in Garner collected, stored, sorted and distributed more than 27,000 books to eight local elementary schools. It is inspiring to think of the teachers, school leaders and others from counties across the state who have conducted their own book drives, opened school libraries for summer story time and spent their vacation running bookmobiles to make sure students in their local communities had access to reading material while they were away from the classroom.

Earlier this month, we kicked off the 2016 Give Five – Read Five campaign. We know that schools and communities will again come together to conduct book drives and other efforts to reduce summer learning loss by providing books to students.

This campaign could have never grown like it has over the past four years without the support of outstanding partners such as myON as well as MetaMetrics, Achieve3000, Reading Horizons, the North Carolina Campus Compact, Book Harvest and Communities In Schools of North Carolina, and I am so grateful for their continued support.

I encourage districts, schools and community partners to visit the Give Five – Read Five website for more information about our campaign and tools that will help you conduct your own local book drives. Thanks to Give Five – Read Five and your support, I am certain that more students than ever will start a new school year better prepared to learn.