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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Access to summer reading

June 3, 2011

As we head into summer, we're all being reminded about the importance of summer reading. Children who don't read during the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and that loss has a cumulative, long-term effect.

Not all kids have access to books. Many, many kids (WAY too many) live in in homes without books. First Book founder Kyle Zimmer suggests that 42% of American children — 31 million — grow up in families where spending money on books is not an option. A new report from London suggests that one in three children in London doesn't own a single book.

The answer to access isn't as easy as "use the library!" While our library system in the U.S. is an incredible resource, libraries face their own budget cuts. In some neighborhoods, this translates into branches with shorter hours or closed altogether, and fewer (and older) books on the shelves of those that are open.

Last summer's meta-analysis report Children's Access to Print Materials and Education-Related Outcomes, commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), found that access to print materials improves reading performance, helps kids learn the basics, causes children to read more and for longer periods, produces improved attitudes.

There are huge national efforts to provide access to new books for children in need. First Book is a shining example of that, but more can be done, within your neighborhood, and at your school. At our school we've put together summer reading bags for the past two years. You can read how we set it up at no cost. They've been very successful. Our neighborhood book swap was another great way to get books into the hands of kids; even the kids who didn't bring a book browsed and brought books home. Even our local drycleaner has gotten into the act. When you walk in the door, there's a cardboard box of books free for the taking. Leave one, take one, or just take one, it's a very casual system but it works!

We can increase access to books, and make a difference, just by thinking about creative ways to get books into every child's hands this summer. Do you have any ideas to share?


BookEnds ( is a Los Angeles based non-profit that is tackling the problem of a lack of quality books in underserved areas by facilitating book drives of gently used books in schools where the children have books in their homes and donating those books to classroom libraries in schools where the students have, in many cases, no books at home, and little or no access to school or public libraries.Over the past 12 years, BookEnds has donated over 2 MILLION books to classrooms and youth organiztions in greater Los Angeles. The schools and teachers do not have to pay for the books, the books donated are quality books in excellent condition - think Harry Potter books that have been read once - and BookEnds offers the added benefit of introducing thousands of students to community service. With BookEnds guidance, the BookEnds book drives are organized, marketed, sorted and delivered by the students of one school to the students of the recipient school. It an amazingly simple idea that has had a tremendous impact. California ranks 49th in books per pupil in school libraries and last in access to public libraries. 50% of Los Angeles Unified School District students scored below proficient in state tests in English. 80% of the students who attend the schools that receive books from BookEnds live below the poverty line.So its this simple - many children have lots of books in their homes that they have read and enjoyed and will never read again. Many more children have no books at home and scant access to books at school. By recycling these wonderful, thrilling, beautifully illustrated books and passing them along to another child, we make this world a better, more literate place. Even more impressive, BookEnds was started by an eight year old boy. Beginning with his first book drive, BookEnds has donated over 2.2 milllion books to over 500,000 students and engaged over 220,000 students in community service.

great the tip about using the library but what about the kids who d'ont have assese to the library?..

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"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx