Bright Spots showcase the work that Grade-Level Reading communities are doing to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016. Today’s feature – highlighting the importance of intentionally integrating daily reading and other literacy-related activities into summer experiences  – is the second in a periodic series of “summer” Bright Spots, in advance of Summer Learning Day 2014 on June 20, sponsored by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), a GLR Campaign partner. 

To learn about new Summer Learning Day tools and tip sheets, join the NSLA during a webinar on May 1 at 3 p.m. (EST) Click here for webinar registration. The webinar will also introduce the GLR Campaign's Healthy Readers guides. Continue reading the Bright Spot below or download a PDF version

Southern Pines — a central North Carolina town of about 15 square miles and 12,300 residents — ratcheted up its literacy work in 2013 by creating a new summer learning project tailored to kindergarten through second-grade students reading below grade level.

“This is a direct result of participating in the Grade-Level Reading Campaign,” says Lynn Thompson, the local library’s director. “We’re a small town but we’re trying to do our part.”

Pleased by the project’s launch, organizers also gained valuable insights. “We hope to improve it based on things we learned,” says Thompson, who is also the GLR community lead.

The first major local GLR effort, the summer learning project developed new reading activities to offer at a Boys & Girls Club summer camp and provided camp scholarships to at-risk students identified by the public elementary school.

Of 86 kindergarten through second-grade students identified, 21 participated, receiving scholarships covering enrollment fees, bus transportation and field trips. Sixteen, or 76 percent, maintained or increased their reading levels, based on pre- and post-program test data. Data analysis was made possible in part by an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.

The other 178 Boys & Girls Club campers, ages 5 to 11, also participated in the activities, which included 45-minute small group reading sessions three times a week led by teachers and teacher assistants; one-hour weekly book club sessions led by library staff; and 30 minutes daily of “Stop, Drop and Read” time, overseen by Boys & Girls Club staff. Campers also joined the library’s longstanding summer reading program.

More than $2,500 in scholarship funds were raised from civic organizations and civic-minded individuals. Money also was raised to overcome a big barrier to participation — lack of transportation — by providing a bus for students on scholarship.

“I was really proud of our community because people just stepped up and sponsored a child,” says Thompson.

Project partners identified several challenges including funding; signing up and engaging children; and finding time to organize all the details. “Everyone has a full plate,” says Thompson. “So finding time to get together is a real challenge.”

A collaboration among the library, school district, Boys & Girls Club and West Southern Pines Citizens for Change, the project set up several evaluation methods. Staff were surveyed about implementation. Reading minutes were tracked using the Evanced Solutions system. Pre- and post-program test data gauged students’ reading level.

In 2014, Southern Pines hopes to boost attendance by applying knowledge gained the first time around, including:

  • Planning needs to begin earlier, with children identified and parents contacted sooner.
  • More parent outreach and help filling out camp applications is needed.
  • A quieter space is needed for small reading groups.
  • Reading level data need to be gathered before camp starts, to make sure students receive books matching their reading levels.

Among the project’s most effective components were:

Freddy the Frog — the local GLR campaign’s mascot, whose “reading pep rally” proved a big hit and motivated students.

“Book Bucks,” which are part of the library’s summer reading program. Children earned prizes by reading 20 minutes a day. The business community backed the program by participating in “Hop the Town with Freddy.” Children checked out miniature models of Freddy from the Library and took them to the businesses. Store personnel talked with the children about reading and gave them a special “Freddy” buck to add to their earnings.

The “Book Clubs” — an experiential learning component developed and conducted by library staff — were exciting for children and boosted their confidence because they were fun group activities and less focused on an individual child’s ability. Focusing on a specific theme (Dinosaurs! Worms! Pirates!), the clubs introduced theme-related vocabulary, featured a group reading of a themed book and provided hands-on activities.

For more information, contact Lynn Thompson at 910-692-8245 or

Photos: Southern Pines Library

You can nominate a Bright Spot in your community by emailing Betsy Rubiner at

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