Springfield Public Schools are giving students free books this summer

At least 3,600 Springfield kindergarten and first graders will get a surprise this week: their very own bag of books.

In addition, up to 800 children entering kindergarten this fall will receive a school readiness kit, complete with books, this summer.

Superintendent Grenita Lathan, an avid reader, championed the gift in a bid to ensure every young learner had their own books to read at home during the long summer vacation.

“I still believe that students need…real physical books,” Lathan said.

The school board agreed. In late April, he approved the district’s plan to donate $146,837 to Scholastic Education for literacy bags and kits.

“Students will go home with books,” Lathan said. Next year, the district plans to expand the giveaway to other grade levels.

Lathan also announced that beloved book character Clifford the Big Red Dog will be visiting the district’s summer program, Explore. It will help encourage students to read, attend class regularly, and demonstrate good citizenship.

From left, Mar'ek Fuller, Ashdon Jasper and Logan Draves, first graders at Westport Elementary, look at the books that were distributed by Springfield Superintendent Grenita Lathan on Wednesday.

Ben Hackenwerth, executive director of learning supports and innovation, said Lathan is passionate about giving children access to books.

“It’s also about equity, making sure every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, has books in their hands,” Hackenwerth said.

This week, Lathan, Hackenwerth and others visited elementary schools to distribute the bags.

After:MSU and SPS are collaborating to build a college-level pitching field next to JFK Stadium

They encouraged students to enroll in the district’s summer program, Explore, and to participate in an annual Springfield-Greene County Library District summer reading challenge.

Hackenwerth said that in addition to instilling a love of reading, the district wants to reduce the learning loss that can occur during summer vacation.

“However, we can get students to read in the summer months, we try to do that,” he said.

Alyssa Howard, a kindergarten student at Westport Elementary, looks at books that were distributed by Superintendent Grenita Lathan.

Dana Hubbard, director of summer learning and student experiences, said Explore will provide extra help for students who are falling behind their peers in reading and math.

“We have our extended learning period where we want to make sure that we engage students who are struggling with reading and math to integrate them and work with them on specific interventions,” Hubbard said. “We have this happening every summer.”

Hubbard said the district places the “most qualified” teachers with students behind one or more grade levels.

In addition to teaching reading, elementary teachers will have a “drop everything and read” period each day this summer, lasting at least 20 minutes.

“We want it to be super intentional,” she said.

Claudette Riley is the News-Leader’s educational reporter. Email news tips to criley@news-leader.com.

About Joey J. Hott

Check Also

E-books for gamers: what to read if you like games?

Few players regularly read or even think about books. But many of them do not …