AFT helps kick off Kansas City Summer of Reading program

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Educators, Kansas City officials and local nonprofit organizations joined on May 21 to kick off the Summer of Reading program for children across the city with events at three public schools.

Children at Primitivo Garcia Elementary School, J.A. Rogers Elementary School and the Foreign Language Academy received new books to take home and keep. The books given away were the first of nearly 10,000 that will be distributed so that every Kansas City Public Schools elementary student gets a book of his or her own.

First Book Kansas City

The books are provided through a partnership with First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 100 million books to children across the country.

The other organizations and programs involved are the AFT, Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel (KCFT), the Local Investment Commission (LINC), the Kansas City Public Schools, the Mayor's Office Turn the Page KC reading program and the Kansas City Public Library's Building a Community of Readers program.

Last week, thousands of books were delivered to LINC headquarters, where LINC staff and KCFT members sorted them for distribution. The three schools involved on the first day are part of LINC's Caring Communities effort to encourage community schools, which have an integrated focus on academics and family support, health and social services.

"Children can't read without books. They need books everywhere in their lives," says KCFT president Andrea Flinders (shown above reading to students). "This Summer of Reading program is one way to expand their access to books." The reading program is part of local efforts to counter the summer learning loss that kids often experience during school vacation.
"It is important to get books into the hands of young children if they are to develop a lifelong love of reading," says Kansas City Public Library director R. Crosby Kemper III. "The books will help encourage children and their families to start a personal library and read together at home, and it fits nicely with the Library's Building a Community of Readers initiative."

During student assemblies at each of the schools involved in the kickoff, children's author Erica S. Perl presented a program drawing on characters from her books. In addition, various community leaders, including Kansas City Mayor Sly James, visited the schools to read to students.

Kansas City Public Schools superintendent R. Stephen Green emphasized another important aspect of the Summer of Reading effort. "It is well-documented that many children experience a 'summer setback' during school vacation, when their reading level can actually decline. Celebrating reading and making sure kids have books to read can help them avoid falling behind."

First Book's leader agreed. "Studies show that the 'summer slide' in reading skill has disastrous consequences for the success of students from low-income families," says Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. "The best way to fight that is by giving kids brand-new, quality books that they'll want to read. First Book is proud to join forces with dedicated educators in Kansas City—and the partners supporting their work—to help get new books into the hands of kids who need them."

Over the last two years, First Book has partnered with the national AFT union and its affiliates across the country to expand access to books for kids from low-income households. [Joint press release from AFT, KCFT, LINC, First Book, Kansas City mayor's office, Kansas City Public Schools and Kansas City Public Library]

May 21, 2013