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School system launches ‘iFeed, iRead’ initiative

SALISBURY — Matika Village is far from any library or bookstore, and students there are hungry for books.

Driving on the gravel roads of the mobile home park, one can see plenty of signs proclaiming that “an extraordinary reader lives here.”

The signs are given to students who read 80 Achieve3000 articles during the school year. But over the summer, many students lack access to the internet, fresh reading materials or books. So on Wednesday, Rowan-Salisbury Schools staff members brought books to them.

Vans rolled out of Carson High School following Summer Meals trucks. At each stop, volunteers handed out lime green bags stuffed with books.

“We just want to make sure that our kids have access to reading materials over the summer,” Assistant Superintendent Julie Morrow said. “If they have access, they’ll read.”

Morrow and other organizers have dubbed the initiative “iFeed, iRead.” Books were purchased using roughly $16,000 from available school funds, private donations and fundraiser money.

The school system also collected gently used books. New and used books were sorted according to grade level, bagged and handed out after each student finished a meal with the Summer Meals Program.

“Every child is getting around three to four books,” Morrow said.

In previous years, students were able to select one book a week from meals trucks. This year, the district decided to go with bags.

“So they have it all summer,” Morrow said.

Children will be able to exchange books throughout the summer if they like.

Morrow estimated that volunteers handed out about 2,300 bags Wednesday, or a total of 10,000 books.

The initiative began as part of the district’s focus on literacy. During the school year, students can visit school libraries, borrow books from classroom shelves or use school WiFi to download reading materials. But during the summer, many students are stuck at home, far from any place they can get a book.

“If they don’t read, their reading skills won’t grow,” Morrow said.

Students are at risk of the so-called “summer slump” where academic and reading skills atrophy, leaving them behind more affluent peers when school starts back in August.

“They need to read every day — read, read, read,” Morrow said.

If kids can’t get to books, Morrow and others decided that books would go to them.

“Reading is critical to a child’s success, and we want to show them that we’re behind them and we’re encouraging them,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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