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Mount Vernon, NewYork, U.S.A. – Every summer, kids who do not read during their school vacations suffer from the “summer slide,” a loss of some of the academic skills they learned during the school year. To tackle this serious problem and help students keep their reading skills sharp, the Mount Vernon City School District in Mount Vernon New York is providing every student in grades K-6 with a Scholastic Summer Reading Book Pack with eight books to take home as part of their new initiative READ – Reading Enriches Academic Development.
This distribution of books is part of a larger community-supported effort to make the summer of 2012 a time for the students of Mount Vernon to read. Along with the book packs, parents will receive a letter from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Waveline Bennett-Conroy emphasizing the importance of summer reading, along with a list of tips for parents for getting children excited about reading. Community members and organizations have shown support through sponsorship and volunteering, including Mayor Ernest D. Davis, Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, and the Mount Vernon Recreation Department. Mondays through Fridays during the summer, the JCY-Westchester organization will have senior citizens volunteering at the Mount Vernon Library to read with students. The school will also be making weekly phone calls during the summer to students and parents to encourage them to keep reading.
“Author Elizabeth Hardwick famously said, ‘The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination,” said Superintendent Bennett-Conroy. “It is my hope through this initiative we are able to instill this PASSION in the students of Mount Vernon.”
Combating the loss of skills in the summer with books is backed up by the research of Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen of the University of Tennessee, who have documented that students who receive books to read during the summer showed significantly higher levels of achievement. That research found that students from low-income households lose more ground over the summer than their peers who have books at home and often experience learning gains from enriching activities during the summer like museum visits or family trips. Allington says the cumulative effects of the “summer slide” year after year can account for as much as 85 percent of the achievement gap between students from low-income and high-income families.
“Mount Vernon is one of many school districts from across the country that realize the critical importance of ensuring kids read and keep their skills sharp during the summer – and they have access to books at home too,” said Greg Worrell, President of Scholastic Classroom and Community Group. “Ensuring that kids have books to read over the summer can help close the achievement gap between the rich and the poor, and give children an even better chance at succeeding in school and in life.”
The Mount Vernon school district kicked off its summer reading initiative on June 21st with a visit from Clifford the Big Red Dog, who went to school to help hand out book packs to students and get them excited about reading. The event was attended by Westchester County (NY) District Attorney Janet DiFiore, Grimes Elementary School Principal Frances Lightsy, N.Y. State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and other community leaders.