Read to be Ready grants bolster local summer programs, educators say

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 12, 2018 at 10:55 PM

This summer marked the third year of the Read to be Ready Grant Program, a state initiative that provides funding to educators to lead tuition-free, literacy-focused summer camps for students across Tennessee.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen released the results of this year’s implementation of the program Tuesday morning, highlighting how the program has helped improve students’ reading comprehension in districts across the state.

Washington County Schools, Johnson City Schools, Elizabethton City Schools and Carter County Schools were among the local districts that have received Read to be Ready grants.

This year, the commissioner said first-, second- and third-grade students who participated in the four-week summer reading program showed notable improvement in reading comprehension and accuracy skills, as well as an “increased motivation to read.”

The story read much the same in Washington County Schools, according to Assistant Director Karla Kyte.

Kyte said the program was able to serve 30 first-, second- and third-graders at Boones Creek Elementary School and Jonesborough Elementary School.

“The program’s summer grants enhanced our overall Washington County summer program,” she said Wednesday morning, adding that the district received $36,000 from the state grant.

“This four-week program addressed the documented ‘summer slide’ that occurs when children are not enrolled in school and are not engaged in reading,” Kyte continued. “The grant allowed the purchase of high-quality children’s books, instructional resources, student field trips, family involvement activities and student take-home reading materials.”

The state provided $44,300 to summer camps within the Johnson City Schools district, which helped fund camps at South Side Elementary School and Fairmont Elementary School for about 40 students.

“Although Johnson City Schools has traditionally provided a rich array of summer programming, the Read to be Ready camps were special for three reasons,” Director of Accountability and School Improvement Robbie Anderson said. “First, the grant funds provided participating teachers with additional training and support — equipping teachers with very specific skills for student motivation and literacy growth. Second, the funds allowed the camp to focus on small group work, providing students with very personalized and intense literacy instruction. Third, the grant enabled every participating student to leave with a personal library of high-quality children’s literature.”

“We had students begin the summer as struggling, reluctant readers and leave the camp excited about reading and proud of their new home libraries,” she added.

In Elizabethton City Schools, the Read to be Ready grant provided $34,800 for its summer Camp Read-A-Lot program at East Side Elementary, where more than 30 students participated.

“Camp Read-A-Lot has seen growth not only in reading levels and ability, but in motivation and confidence as well,” Director Julie Hartsook said, adding that students were able to take dozens of books home with them.

Officials from Carter County Schools could not be immediately reached for comment.

The application for the 2019 summer grant program is available now through Oct. 22. All school districts are encouraged to apply, and full application details can be found at www.tn.gov/readtobeready, where more information on the program can be found.