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. Read on or download a PDF version.

Today’s feature – highlighting Seattle's work to engage families in summer reading efforts – is the fifth 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.  Get ready for the celebration by taking the pledge and  getting resources from NSLA. Tune in on Tuesday June 10 to learn about ways technology can support literacy during the summer by viewing a live stream of a Summer Learning event in Washington D.C. 

Families need to encourage children to read even more in the summer when school classrooms fall silent — which explains why family engagement is a core strategy of the Seattle-area summer reading campaign Let’s Read!

“We’re working to build a culture in which reading every day is a priority for families in preparing children for success in school, career and life,” says Kelsey Landes, coordinator ofLet’s Read!, one of the many efforts of the cradle-to-career collective impact initiative, the Road Map Project, in Seattle and nearby communities in South King County.

“As we reviewed decades of research confirming the connection between summer learning loss and achievement gaps, we realized we need to provide extended learning opportunities for children in the summer. It’s a big chunk of time that our students are not in school.”

To connect with low-income families, in particular, Let’s Read! has developed a consistent message and a strong community network to relay that message.

“We cannot reach all families on our own,” explains Landes, who works for the Community Center for Educations Results, the lead organization for the area’s Grade-Level Reading Campaign effort, which is embedded in the Road Map Project. “We’ve learned that working with direct service providers is the best way to engage families because of the existing relationships they have with children and families.”

In the spring of 2013 and 2014, Let’s Read! convened community planning meetings in seven school districts to strategize ways to support low-income children and families during the summer. More than 100 providers that serve low-income families participated, from libraries, housing authorities, summer meal programs and municipalities to Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCAs and agencies serving immigrants.

Since its start in 2012, the campaign has ramped up its messaging, outreach and community organizing by:

  • Producing tools including literacy tips (disseminated through Facebook and an email Listserv of 65 providers), postcards and a summer reading agreement (in 14 languages) as well as materials such as posters (in nine languages), stickers and magnets.
  • Encouraging community partners to “get creative” in their outreach and use of the materials. One community center printed and posted the literacy tips in its entryway. A school district converted the tips into robo-calls, in several languages, made to families. 
  • Engaging other community members who see children daily during the summer — caregivers, camp counselors, even siblings — to get the message out about the importance of summer reading and learning. 

An added effort to address the “Summer Reading Commitment” included in the federal Race to the Top grant awarded to the region helps the campaign focus on supporting kindergarten through second grade students in 52 “high-need” elementary schools in seven local school districts. A summer reading plan — which includes a summer reading agreement, library summer reading log and magnet — is given to these students before the summer. In 2014, more than 16,000 students will receive a plan, up from over 12,000 in 2013.

Also in summer 2013, over 7,000 new books were distributed throughout the region, funded by Page Ahead, a Seattle-based nonprofit. Most went directly to children but some were additions to the library collections of nonprofits serving children.

This summer, the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System will increase efforts to push their services outside their walls into high-need communities. Librarians will make Let’s Read! outreach visits to parks, summer meal sites and housing complexes, bringing performers and conducting story times and library card signups.

“We are really making an effort to expand the campaign’s reach, to connect with more partners and service providers so anywhere kids go, they hear the same message about the importance of reading,” says Landes.

For more information, contact Kelsey Landes at 206-838-6625 or klandes@ccedresults.org.

Photos: Community Center for Educations Results; Publication Date: Spring 2014

You can nominate a Bright Spot in your community by emailing Betsy Rubiner at brubiner@gradelevelreading.net

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