Volunteers joined with United Way of Delaware and Henry Counties this week to hand out nearly 5,000 free books to second and third graders at South View and Grissom elementary schools.
The book giveaway, in its second year, is an attempt to stave off summer slide, said Jim Flatford, director of impact for United Way. Summer slide is the term given to the loss of skills children experience during the summer months when they are away from school. Research shows the effects are strongest on children in low-income families who might not have the extra money for enriching activities.
“Almost sixty-three percent of the children who received books last year maintained or gained their reading scores over the summer,” said Flatford who worked with South View Elementary Principal Kara Miller to compare reading scores when school started in the fall. One of United Way’s strategic goals is to have every student in Muncie schools reading at grade level at the end of third grade. Fourth graders begin reading for information, so knowing how to decode words is crucial to a child’s education at that level.
Each child was able to choose 12 books which they stored in tote bags provided by United Way. Volunteers helped them keep track of their choices and packed bags for children who were absent on the day of the giveaway.
Tori Hannah, a volunteer from Navient, said the decision to help was an easy one. “I really love kids, and I love to read, so I thought it would be really fun to see the kids interested in books,” she said. Hannah conducted the informal “exit interviews” with third graders, asking each child which books were their favorites and which books they would like to see offered next year.
Navient supplied 12 volunteers on Tuesday at South View; the city of Muncie provided 4 helpers. Also helping were By5 with 2 volunteers, Ball State University with one volunteer, and four members of United Way’s board of directors. On Wednesday at Grissom Elementary, which took part in the book drive for the first time this spring, MutualBank provided 10 volunteers, Whitinger provided 5, and Ball State provided one.
Third-grader Dalton Knox scanned the tables for his favorite, “I really liked the Rocket and Groot book last year. It ended in a cliffhanger, so I want to read the next one,” he said. Dalton wore his Harry Potter jacket to celebrate the book giveaway and said he’s halfway through the first book in that series. Does he like to read? “Well, let’s just say my dad keeps finding books on the floor,” he offered.
Nate Rose, who oversees United Way’s literacy efforts, says finding books students love to read is a key to the success of the program. “We’re looking for high-interest books,” he said. “We want them to keep turning those pages.”
Heather Crabtree, a volunteer from Navient, attended South View as a child and enjoyed being back at her alma mater for the book giveaway. As a child she read Charlotte’s Web and she said she would have loved getting to pick out brand new books to read over the summer.
One of the children she helped this week couldn’t stop giggling over his favorite book, a colorful story about weasels who want to take over the world.
“I’m going to be looking for weasels now,” Lamarion Wilson said. “Weasels better watch out for me!” He was in the group of students who received free books last year, too, and said he remembered reading Star Wars books over the summer.
Research shows that book ownership is more impactful for many children than book loan programs, and United Way staff relish giving away brand-new books, purchased at a discount from a clearinghouse that caters to non-profits.
“Do we get to keep these books for our whole lives?” one boy asked his teacher as he lugged his heavy bag down the hallway. When she responded affirmatively, he replied “Awesome!”
United Way plans to continue expanding this program. Organizations interested in sponsoring a classroom or a grade level, or would like more information on this and other literacy projects, please contact Denise King at firstname.lastname@example.org.