Keep Learning Alive
An Overview of Select Summer Book Provision Programs
March 17, 2023 | By Director of Book Abundance Rachel Stine and AmeriCorps Member Parker Nelson
Summer time presents a unique opportunity to preserve learning gains for students – despite breaks from school. Many organizations focus on providing books to children at the end of the school year to spark an inherent interest in subjects and stories that keeps learning alive.
During the summer of 2022, Book Harvest met with several partner organizations that provide books to children for summer break. Together, these organizations believe that children retain a love for learning over the summer months when they have an array of engaging books at home to read and keep forever.
The convening was focused on discovering shared strategies for success, for overcoming challenges, and for optimizing outcomes so that programs could learn from one another and grow, and so that others may learn how to implement similar programs to keep learning alive for all students.
- Book Harvest, NC
- Books for Keeps, GA
- Chatham Reads, NC
- Promising Pages, NC
- Public School Foundation of Chapel Hill, NC
- Read ENC, NC
- WAKE Up and Read, NC
General Information about the Organizations and Programs
All of the organizations that participated in the convening, provide a variety of literacy programs in their communities. Four of the organizations are connected to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, and states, to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. One of the pillars of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is summer learning.
To keep learning alive all summer long, six of the organizations run programs in which books are provided at elementary schools and children select their own books. One organization contracts with Kids Read Now to provide books to children to read over the summer. In this program, students choose books before school ends and the books are sent to their homes throughout the summer.
One program provides books to child care centers and one program provides books to middle school students. The other programs provide books to elementary-aged children in grades K-5.
The scope of each program is different in terms of number of students served, number of books selected by each student, and number of schools participating. Book Harvest helped launch two of the programs with two of the organizations and has provided books to three of the programs throughout the years when Book Harvest’s inventory allowed for such support.
Methods of Inquiry
Organizations were contacted following their summer book provision programs to reflect on their progression and success since first starting their program. Members from Book Harvest asked several questions, interviewing staff members that were in charge of or closely related to the program to get details about how the program was executed. Both quantitative and qualitative data was requested and analyzed, with qualitative data being the majority of information collected from organizations. These interviews happened over zoom and occurred one time. All participants were informed that the information collected would be summarized and provided back to them in a report.
Quick Facts: Successes Across Organizations
- 364,487 books were provided by participating organizations in 2022
- At least 50,000 children in grades PreK-5th participated in the summer book provision programs across 118 schools
- An average of 6.6 books was provided to every participating student
- Participating programs have been engaged in summer book provision for between 11 and 4 years.
The most common form of data collection across organizations is to compile both the number of students reached and the number of books provided. A few organizations noted that COVID has made this process more difficult and has affected the numbers.
Following this method is surveys–both student and teacher–and test scores. Organizations noted they use surveys to gauge interest in the books and overall program and to outline the observed changes in literacy culture. Kids can also self-report when they have finished a book. As for test scores, several organizations indicated they look at mCLASS scores or iReady scores.
Organizations use a combination of gently-used books and new books for programming. One organization only uses new books. In order to acquire donated books, several organizations run book drives to receive books from the community to use in programming.
Organizations also purchase books from a variety of vendors:
Amazon, Barefoot Books, Book Depot, Books 4 School, First Book, Language Lizard, and Scholastic. Betterall Books and Thrift Books were also mentioned as vendors that had been used but were not reliable or did not work well to meet the needs of the organization.
Many of the organizations had unique ways of implementing their programming that might be helpful to consider when organizing for future summer book provision. These differences are across all of the areas examined for this report, including data collection, delivery, feedback, and the physical program application itself. Some of those unique features include:
- Having a table with only pictures books for all grades
- Having a table with only high interest books
- Delivering the books directly to the schools
- Conducting student surveys to gauge high interest books
- Collecting iReady, EOY and BOY test scores, bookstore sale data, library checkout data, etc.
- Sending students home with literacy tips for better engagement
- Partnering with summer school programming
- A common strength expressed by each of the organizations was the support and enthusiasm from the community: kids, parents, teachers, schools and volunteers.
- Working with others, from outside the direct organization, allowed for an increase in capacity and ability to provide more books to more kids.
- Several organizations shared anecdotes about the impact of the books on children, noting the children’s positive response to being able to keep the books.
- Among all organizations, the most common difficulties conveyed had to do with scheduling and communication with outside organizations: scheduling with schools and physically transporting books to schools.
- A commonly expressed challenge was the lack of time and warehouse space to prepare, house, and organize the books.
- Many organizations noted that the cost of books was high–especially diverse and high-interest books–and that sustainable, expansive funding was hard to come by.
- Most organizations expressed interest in meeting together to problem-solve and learn from each other.
- There is an interest in coming together to purchase books in bulk to drive the price down, particularly high-interest titles like Dogman, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and other diverse titles that are expensive.
About Book Harvest and the Books on Break Program
Book Harvest is an award-winning organization that provides an abundance of books and ongoing literacy support to families and their children from birth and serves as a model for communities committed to ensuring that children are lifelong readers and learners. Since its founding in 2011, Book Harvest has provided more than two million books to children and a wealth of literacy supports to parents in central North Carolina and beyond. Learn more at bookharvest.org.
Book Harvest believes that access to an abundance of books is an essential part of a healthy childhood and healthy communities. Book Harvest’s book abundance portfolio helps families and children harvest books and discover literacy activities wherever they go, from their homes to community spaces including schools, laundromats, parks, health centers, and more.
Book Harvest’s Books on Break is a program launched in 2012 that invites elementary school students to choose their very own, brand new, culturally diverse books to take and keep forever at the start of every summer break. The joy and engagement students experience during Books on Break help build their home libraries and preserve the learning gains they made over the prior academic year.
Click below to download this report as a PDF.