APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Over the past 12 months, Books for Keeps tested several models and methods for distributing books to children in Athens-Clarke County elementary, middle and high schools. The approach outlined below is a description of the new program Books for Keeps will create based on best practices identified at the conclusion of the organization's first year.
By giving books directly to children, Books for Keeps will side-step reading achievement issues outside of a child's control, such as parental involvement or access to a library. This simple act will reduce the impact of summer slide, narrow the achievement gap between low- and middle-income children, and increase each child's opportunity for success in school, career, and life.
Books for Keeps will distribute books directly to elementary school students at in-school events in cooperation with the Clarke County School District (CCSD). The children will come, one class at a time, to the school's media center and will have 20-30 minutes to browse for books. Books for Keeps volunteers will be on hand to assist children in finding books they are interested in reading and want to own. After each selecting 12 books, students will discuss their choices with Books for Keeps volunteers and give feedback about the book selection.
Books for Keeps estimates that an allowance of 20% will be necessary to ensure its book inventory matches the ages, reading levels, and interests of the students. Therefore Books for Keeps must collect 29,000 - 36,000 usable books. Historically, 68% of Books for Keeps' donations are deemed usable, meaning the condition, content and appeal of each book is appropriate for the program. It's realistic to expect that, if relying primarily on used books, Books for Keeps must collect and process 50,000 or more books to meet its Clinton Global Initiative commitment.
Books for Keeps will aggressively seek book donations through book drives and other programs. At a facility provided by CCSD, Books for Keeps volunteers will inspect, categorize and sort the books by reading level. CCSD Media Specialists will help Books for Keeps identify trends in student interest. Throughout the year Books for Keeps will monitor its inventory against the ages and reading levels of the students who will receive the books, enabling the organization to focus its efforts on certain inventory areas when necessary.
To increase Books for Keeps' ability to meet its CGI commitment, the organization will begin fund-raising efforts to allow for the purchase of books. The most current and popular books - the books the students want most - are rarely donated. Books for Keeps will purchase books to supplement donations, focusing on high-demand, high-appeal books and/or books for reading levels where inventory is lagging.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
At the beginning of the 2011/2012 school year, CCSD will identify schools with 90% or more of students qualifying for free/reduced meals, thus establishing the number of schools and students to receive books in May of 2012. Every child in kindergarten through fifth grades at each qualifying school will receive books. Based on 2010 data, Books for Keeps estimates 5 to 6 schools with a total student population ranging from 2,000 - 2,500 students will qualify. At 12 books per student, this means Books for Keeps will distribute 24,000 - 30,000 books.
In May of 2012, Books for Keeps will provide 12 high-interest books for summer reading to every elementary school student attending an Athens-Clarke County school where 90% or more of students qualifies for free/reduced meals. Books for Keeps will repeat this program for a minimum of three years at each qualifying school. By May of 2013, Books for Keeps will expand beyond Athens-Clarke County, beginning with a rural Georgia school and an inner-city Atlanta school, to reach children who might otherwise lack books for summer reading.
May 2011: Begin solicitation of books and funds
August 2011: Locate and secure a facility for book sorting and storage
September 2011: Identify schools with 90% or more of students qualifying for free/reduced meals
March 2012: Secure a vendor or donor to provide tote bags
April 2012: Secure a vendor to deliver books to schools
May 2012: Deliver and distribute books
Children who do not read during the summer months can return to school in the fall having lost skills they previously developed. They can lag up to three months behind their classmates in terms of reading achievement according to a study by H. Cooper on the effects of summer vacation on children's academic performance published in the Review of Educational Research. This achievement loss is known as summer reading setback, or 'summer slide' and according to studies by D.P. Haynes and J. Grether in the Cornell Journal of Social Relations and K.L. Alexander in the American Sociological Review, the effects compound yearly and affect children from low-income families at a disproportionate rate .
Summer slide is devastating to a child's chances of future success in any educational or career endeavor. Studies in recent decades have identified failure to read or engage in other educational opportunities during the summer as a significant contributing factor. For many children, this failure to read is due to a lack of access to books outside of school. The public library is simply not an option for some children, for widely-varying reasons.
In 2007, a three-year study by reading researcher Dr. Richard Allington found that giving elementary school students 12 books each for summer, three years in a row, had a positive impact on reading achievement similar to attending summer school. Books for Keeps is creating a summer reading program based on Dr. Allington's approach.
Books for Keeps is seeking partners to help in the expansion of the Stop Summer Slide! program to additional elementary school students.
Significant financial resources are needed, not only to purchase books for students in our program but also to secure adequate warehouse space to store them, and appropriate staffing levels to run our program. Whether it's relationships with publishers to secure new and better books for our children, financial resources to buy the books and run the program, or help finding donated or discounted warehouse space, Books for Keeps in Athens, GA is a small but mighty organization that thrives only through the support of a growing community of champions who believe in our mission of improving children's reading achievement by addressing barriers related to the accessibility and appeal of reading material.