Invest in the future with the gift of books

Between now and June, you and the Children’s Reading Alliance (CRA) have the opportunity to change lives by providing children with books that they will enjoy reading during the summer. We can help struggling readers by contributing to the CRA Summer Book Buddies Fund. The evidence is bleak, children who return to school without reading all summer need the first four to six weeks to regain their previous achievement level and that is just the beginning. Allow me to address any questions you may have about the urgency of acting now.

Doesn’t school take care of this? Skills lost during the summer create a wide gap between more and less proficient readers. By the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer losses account for a two year achievement gap. “Differences in out-of-school access to books, positive reading practices, and connections with institutions supportive of self-discovery and reading, account for much of the disparity in student academic success” according to Education researchers Anne. E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich.

 “How can a few books make a difference?” Research suggests that reading four books during the summer is a change agent. Reading as a leisure activity is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary and reading speed.  Practice is key. “The body of existing research demonstrates the critical importance that the early development of summer reading habits can play in providing the foundation for later success. Two-thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years, with nearly one-third of the gap present when children begin school. During the school year, lower income children’s skills improve at close to the same rate as their more advantaged peers. Over the summer months middle and upper income children’s skills continue to improve, while lower income children’s skills do not,” according to education researchers Alexander, Entwistle and Olsen, 2007.

What can I do at home? Kids need to see you read. Having reading role models or a large book collection at home has a greater impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income.

LCPS is asking us to support their K3+ students with four books this summer. Libraries and community centers throughout the valley are also asking CRA for books. Our resources are severely stretched. Volunteers are doing everything we can to provide books. We have a plan. Already, together with a contribution from El Paso Electric and some savvy shopping, we are able to offer one book to each child attending LCPS K3+. Contributions from readers of the Las Cruces Bulletin and a grant from Las Cruces Public School Foundation are moving us closer to being able to provide the second book. *

We are more than one quarter of the way there! When we pool our resources we can touch the future. CRA supporters are asking businesses as well as individuals to become members of this effort. Would you like to join? Call Maria Zuniga at 575 522 3713 if you can contribute a few hours or you wish to suggest a potential donor. Learn more about CRA at our website: Contributions can be made on the website or mailed to Children’s Reading Alliance 3880 Foothills Road, Las Cruces 88011.

We are readers. Look around at all the children you see today. They are counting on us to help them become readers too.

*This column is written more than a week before you read it. We will continue to update the list of donors.