Literacy campaign promotes summer reading at Wraparound schools

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Students may forget one to three months of learning during summer vacation, according to Dr. Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor and expert in summer learning.

“Think of it this way — if summer vacation equals three months of learning lost, then from first to sixth grade, a student can lose up to 18 months of their skills,” wrote Julia Boxler, who leads youth programs at all 27 branches of Cuyahoga County Public Library, in a recent blog.

United Way of Greater Cleveland’s summer literacy campaign, including the “Stuff the Bus with Books” drive, strives to provide CMSD students with grade-appropriate reading material to curb learning loss during the break.

Funded in part with a grant provided by United Way Worldwide with money that it received from Red Nose Day, the first element of the strategy was a literacy awareness campaign for parents. The second was the Summer Learning Kick-Off and book drive.

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The Summer Learning Kick-off took place May 19 at five CMSD Wraparound schools — Almira, Case, Harvey Rice, Patrick Henry and Walton. United Way partners with CMSD for the Wraparound initiative, which works to resolve poverty problems that can affect children’s academic performance. Each school’s site coordinator connects students and their families with individualized social, medical and community services.

According to Andrew Katusin, the education manager at United Way of Greater Cleveland, the events were staffed by volunteers from University Hospitals. The programs included fresh produce from Dave’s Market, raffles and career bingo — which invited older students to ask UH volunteers about their work. At Harvey Rice, the target school because of its proximity to UH’s main campus, there was also a DJ and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Volunteers distributed 4,000 books to approximately 1,800 students in literacy packs, which included two books, a coloring or puzzle book and United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 Youth Pages.

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“Stuff the Bus with Books” continues the literacy initiative by collecting donated books at locations throughout the city. It challenges companies to sponsor the drive or be a collection point.

In partnership with the Cleveland Indians, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, UPS, Nationwide and GE, collected books will be given to students at CMSD schools, three suburban schools — John Muir in Parma, John Dewey in Warrensville Heights and John F. Kennedy in Maple Heights — and local libraries participating in summer learning programs.

The drive ends with an event to fill an RTA bus with the collected books before the Indians game, Saturday, June 18 at Progressive Field.

For more information or to volunteer, visit http://www.unitedwaycleveland.org/stuffthebus/

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