Image: Kids at Fruitville Elementary's Summer Learning Academy

Kids Get Free Books at Fruitville Elementary's Summer Learning Academy

Posted on June 11, 2019 by Anna Bryson, Herald-Tribune Media Group

Kids at Fruitville Elementary’s Summer Learning Academy ran around Monday morning excited about a room stocked with brand-new books.

“Biscuit the dog is awesome!” said one.

“I can’t wait to read this with my mommy!” said another.

All the students were able to browse and choose one to take home free, courtesy of donations gathered by Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of the Suncoast.

“This morning they were passing out books but it looks like they were passing out smiles. Every kid had one when they left here,” said Todd Bowden, superintendent of Sarasota County schools.

This is the fifth year JFCS has hosted the book giveaway, in partnership with a variety of local businesses and organizations that help source the donations.

“The ownership of a book is so important so that they can take the magic of reading,” said Sheila Birnbaum, volunteer project manager for JFCS. “They can have an imagination, they can go be another person. They can learn the words, they can share it with their family, their siblings, and they could also share it with their friends and trade books.”

Dusty French, principal of Fruitville Elementary School, spent the morning reading with his students and talking to them about the books they picked out.

“We’re trying to instill learning throughout the summer, and what better way than with a book,” French said.

The six-week summer learning academies are offered at all of Sarasota County’s Title 1 schools in an effort to help combat the learning loss that occurs with many children over the summer months. Studies show that students who do not have access to high-quality summer programs can lose as much as two months of reading progress between school years.

“We have a high-quality school year of 180 days; we just want to make sure that they don’t give it back over the summer,” Bowden said. “Even if they make no gains over the summer, if they came back at the same level, it’s about a 20% gain each year. And if you look at that over the life of their academic careers, that literally adds years to them by bridging those summer losses.”

This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.


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