City-HISD Partnership Aims To Keep Kids Reading Through Summer

‘Summer of Learning’ encourages students to read at least five books.


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Students at Blackshear Elementary in the Third Ward know that reading regularly is important.

“So you can get smarter and for the education,” said Jordan Edmonson.

“Because your education gets higher and you get better at reading,” said Omar Alkiswani.

 Thanks to a combined effort by the Houston Independent School District and the city, they also know better than to spend the summer playing video games and watching TV.

The initiative is called “Summer of Learning” and it encourages kids to read at least five books during the summer months.

Mayor Annise Parker spoke to Blackshear Elementary School students for the announcement of the initiative.

“For a lot of students, when they stop reading over the summer, their reading skills drop and they fall behind,” Parker said. “And so, we can tell which students read over the summer and which ones didn’t. And we want to make sure that everyone reads over the summer.”

Mayor Annise Parker along with other representatives of the city of Houston and HISD pose with Blackshear Elementary School students.

The initiative encourages students to sign up for the summer reading program at the Houston Public Library.

Dr. Rhea Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library system, said summer reading programs have been offered here for 80 years. And this year there are some new incentives to sign up.

“You get a free book that you can take home to either start your own library, your own shelf, your own space with your books,” she said, “or either add to that space that you already have books and you can start your own home library.”

In addition, the new Read Down Your Fines program allows kids up to 18 years of age to read books in exchange for coupons that can be used toward late fees.

Also part of the initiative is HISD’s Every Summer Has A Story program. Students can keep track of their books with a reading log and turn it in at the beginning of the school year for a reward. The same books can be used for both programs.

Drew Houlihan, chief school support officer at HISD, said the goal is for all students in the school district to maintain their reading skills.

“Children who read as few as six books during the summer months, gain or maintain the reading skills achieved during the prior year,” he said.

Omar Alkiswani from Blackshear Elementary has his sight set on higher goals.

“I might read 20,” he said.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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