Young readers receive free books from Reading Corps

By : 
Jordan Gerard

Readers just learning to read and readers who have been reading for a few years received a generous donation of books from the Minnesota Reading Corps Bookshelf Builders Initiative.

About 30 kids, grades kindergarten through third, are enrolled in the corps at Spring Grove. They qualify for the corps by having reading scores just slightly lower than their classmates, Minnesota Reading Corps volunteer Bill Fried said. 

“We work with them for 20 minutes per day on specific strategies, which help them catch up quickly,” he said. “Reading Corps monitors their progress until they reach fourth grade and other programs take over.”

Receiving the books are important for students to not only help them with reading, but to build their personal library as well. Students take the books home and read them over the summer. Reading levels range from very beginners to third grade chapter books.

“Beginning readers need books and Bookshelf Builders provides them with free books to practice on over the summer,” Fried added. 

Spring Grove has had Reading Corps volunteers for six years and experienced rapid growth in student reading scores.

Younger pre-K students received about 20 books while K-3 students got about eight to 10 books. The goal is to help children learn to read and learn to love it.

Part of reaching that goal is providing kids with opportunities to read and be read to outside of school.

Nationally, the Bookshelf Builders Initiative will distribute about 220,000 books to 15,000 children nationwide, according to a press release.

The program is made possible through a $3,519,751 Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to Reading Corps.

Over the course of two years, $6,101,561 has been given to Reading Corps in order to provide students with books. In addition to giving students their own books to take home, each school also receives a set of at least 20 grade-appropriate books.

The grant’s purpose is to develop and improve literacy skills for children in high-need areas. It supports programs that promote early literacy for young children, motivate older children to read and increase student achievement by using school libraries and media centers.

Reading Corps is an early literacy program that combines the people power of AmeriCorps with data-driven instruction to help children, age three to third grade, become proficient readers by the end of third grade. 

In addition to book distribution, this grant through IAL will enable Reading Corps to partner with school library personnel to share the program’s current family engagement practices. 

The two-year IAL grant will also fund a pilot for high-need schools and additional research on the model’s effectiveness.

Federal funding from the U. S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service accounts for 100 percent of the total annual cost ($713,000) of the Bookshelf Builders initiative. 

IAL grants totaling more than $26 million were awarded to 29 grantees focused on improving high-quality literacy programs for children in pre-K through twelfth grade.

Reading and Math, Inc., which manages the Reading Corps program, is one of only three national nonprofits awarded funding through IAL in 2017, according to a press release.

Reading and Math, Inc. was launched in 2014 to implement and replicate evidence-based AmeriCorps programs. 

By combining the power of national service with research-based and proven strategies, these programs transform academic and employment outcomes for children and adults. 

Reading Corps helps children, age 3 to grade 3, become proficient in reading, Minnesota Math Corps assists fourth through eighth graders in achieving proficiency in math, and Minnesota Opportunity Corps supports adults in reaching economic stability. 

In addition, the company supports the expansion and replication of Reading Corps across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Florida, and coordinates with other states interested in scaling these programs to help more children achieve grade-level reading proficiency. 

Currently, Reading Corps is serving more than 40,000 students in 12 states and Washington, D.C.