Decades of research tells us that students that read over the summer perform better than students that don’t. Over the course of years, this can translate into the loss of several grade levels of reading skills. Unfortunately, public libraries and home libraries may be out of reach for many children.
Nobody knows the effects of summer slide better than teachers and school librarians that work to help students catch up on their reading skills each fall. As a school librarian and technology facilitator in one of the highest need areas in Southeast Raleigh, Chris Tuttle knows this first hand. At Washington Magnet Elementary School, the student body is at 40% free and reduced lunch and the average household income is about $11,000 per year.
After years of wanting to begin a book mobile program for needy students, Chris enlisted the help of kindergarten teacher Kelsey Clarke, and together they took a leap of faith. At the end of this school year they stood up at a faculty meeting and asked for donations of books. That was the beginning of Raleigh’s Rolling Readers.
The project gained momentum very quickly. Donations came in from all over, and began to cover every available space in Chris’s house. Seeing that the books were not really representative of the children she hoped to serve, Chris and Kelsey reached out on social media and garnered support from authors and publishers of diverse books as well as a Go Fund Me to help purchase new books.
Chris, Kelsey, and volunteers set up “shop” with Chris’s minivan, a 10 x 10 tent, and boxes of books more than half a dozen times in the Southeast Raleigh area at local parks and summer programs for children. By the end of July, they distributed approximately 2,000 books to children.
In a matter of weeks, they realized that in order to qualify for grants and such Chris and Kelsey really needed to apply for non-profit status. An attorney has agreed to provide services pro bono and a community member has donated the filing fee. Raleigh’s Rolling Readers also captured the attention of the school district as well as local news sources.
Moving forward, Chris and Kelsey hope to be more deliberate in their efforts with Raleigh’s Rolling Readers. Once they can get non-profit status, they hope to buy a more suitable vehicle to transport books as well as purchase more diverse titles that are more reflective of young people in the area.
So it’s no surprise that Raleigh’s Rolling Readers is an overnight success. It’s all the buzz in NC… teachers and librarians volunteering their time over the summer to put books in the hands of children. To follow their progress, follow Raleigh’s Rolling Readers on Facebook and Twitter at @RaleighsReaders.
Author: Sedley Abercrombie
Sedley Abercrombie is the district digital learning and library media programs specialist for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina, an NCSLMA executive board member, and an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.