PEP celebrated National Summer Learning Week by conducting Family Reading Night events for students of East North Street Academy (ENSA) and Taylors Elementary on July 11, hosting over 450 students and family members. The night was part of PEP’s Make Summer Count (MSC) program, which reached over 18,300 Greenville County Schools (GCS) students, and is the largest program in South Carolina recognized by The National Summer Learning Association.
“National Summer Learning Week recognizes the importance of keeping kids’ brains and bodies active over the summer, ensuring they return to school ready to succeed,” said Angel Whaley, Interim President & CEO of Public Education Partners. “It is the perfect opportunity to highlight our Make Summer Count reading initiative, which partners with Greenville County Schools and Scholastic to engage students and families around literacy best practices, with the goal to help eliminate summer reading loss.”
Several Greenville organizations and companies joined PEP at these literacy events to help raise awareness regarding the summer slide. This is a term used to describe both the academic and physical regression that can be experienced by students over the summer.
“PEP’s Family Reading Night events are the perfect opportunity to bring nutritious meals to children while they have fun reading,” said Paula Wambeke, Coordinator of Operations for GCS Nutrition Services. “PEP shares our goal of keeping kids healthy and engaged during the summer so when school starts in the fall, they are ready to pick up where they left off.”
Volunteers at Taylors Elementary included The Capital Corporation, Scholastic’s Clifford The Big Red Dog and the Greenville County Library System, with a food truck provided by Project Host, and activities courtesy of LiveWell Greenville.
Volunteers at ENSA included Michelin, the Michelin Man and the Greenville County Library System, with a food truck provided by GCS Nutrition Services, and Pre-K board books courtesy of Greenville County First Steps.
“We believe reading to children at an early age creates a foundation for success throughout their education and increases graduation rates,” said Santora H. Bowling, Community Relations for Michelin North America. “Michelin proudly supports Public Education Partners in their ongoing efforts to improve public education.”
According to Derek Lewis, Executive Director of Greenville First Steps, “The beauty of Make Summer Count is its ability to place high-quality books into the hands of students and families who most need them. We are proud to be part of the effort, and to expand book access to younger siblings of these students.”
MSC is comprised of two opportunities for literacy engagement. During the spring, MSC Book Celebrations are held at 29 high-needs elementary schools throughout Greenville County, allowing students to self-select 10 free, age-appropriate, high-interest books to build their home libraries.
In the summer, these 29 schools host Family Reading Night events, where families are invited to learn strategies from PEP to support their children’s reading, and students receive additional free books. This year, PEP distributed roughly 190,000 books through the MSC program.
“Our staff, students and parents recognize and appreciate the investment and importance PEP places on creating a culture that cultivates a love of reading,” said Dawn Hooker, Principal of ENSA. “As a school and community, we continue to focus on reading and it helps to have an organization like PEP that has the same passion.”
July 11 also marked PEP’s Summer Learning Fundraiser. The Facebook-based campaign was a new solicitation venture for PEP, and brought in an additional $400 to combat the summer slide.