By: Dr. Damon A. Williams, SR Vice President of Program, Training & Youth Development
There was a study conducted earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy with some alarming numbers: 32 million adults in the United States cannot read and 21 percent of adults living in the United States read below a fifth grade reading level. At Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), the very essence of our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Reading is a fundamental skill to ensuring that we make this a reality for the youth that we serve.
From the eye-opening numbers above, you can see what an uphill battle schools and organizations like BGCA face in the literacy fight. Part of the challenge for educators and parents is making reading enjoyable for kids, so that it becomes part of a routine. Getting kids to read can be particularly daunting during the summer, when the days are longer, temperatures are warmer and outdoor activities are plentiful.
However, the challenge of summer reading loss is real and pervasive.
- Each summer, approximately 43 million (3 in 4) children in the United States miss out on expanded learning opportunities that could prevent them from falling behind before the next school year begins (Afterschool Alliance).
- Low-income youth lose more than two months of reading skills, while their middle-class peers make slight gains during the summer (Review of Educational Research).
- By the end of fifth grade, disadvantaged youth are nearly three grade level equivalents behind their more affluent peers in reading (American Sociological Review).
To help combat this challenge, BGCA and Staples introduced Summer Brain Gain: READ! this year, which is a 12-week reading program designed to improve and reinforce literacy skills for America's youth. Boys & Girls Club members are presented with age-specific books each week, along with supporting activities. In addition to participating in two 30-minute reading sessions during the week, members complete fun activities to bring the book to life. The Summer Brain Gain: READ! program helps prepare children for their upcoming school year, but it also reinforces the importance and joys of reading.
The "Make Good Reads Happen" contest, is an extension of the Summer Brain Gain: READ! program. Boys & Girls Club members were divided into two age groups: elementary school (first to fifth grade) and middle and high school (sixth to 12th grade). Kids were challenged to use their creativity and imagination to talk about their favorite books. Elementary school members had the option to dress up as their favorite character or design a movie poster from their selected Summer Brain Gain: READ! book list. Middle and high school Club members could host a talk show, creating a list of thought-provoking questions to ask the subjects of the book or rewrite the ending to their favorite book.
Right now you can see the creativity and inspiration in all six "Make Good Reads Happen" finalist entries by visiting BGCA.org/MakeGoodReadsHappen and voting. You may vote once per hour until voting concludes on Friday, October 24, 2014. Two deserving Club members (one elementary, one middle/high school) will win an eReader and some other great Staples prizes, and their Club will also win an eReader along with a reading celebration party.
Dr. Damon A. Williams is the SR Vice President of Program, Training & Youth Development.
While the contest has traditionally been a tremendous success, the power to create change in youth through literacy is the ultimate victory in this program.