MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Educators have stressed the importance of kids continuing to learn over the summer months, but especially this year, after an unusual school year caused by the ongoing pandemic. It’s why a local non-profit is working hard to keep kids reading by giving away free books.
Arise 2 Read, a non-profit in Memphis, gathered thousands of books this year that they planned to distribute to second grade students in the Mid-South -- then the pandemic hit.
“When [COVID-19] hit, we basically had 28,000 books in storage,” said Karen Vogelsang, executive director of Arise 2 Read.
Executive Director Karen Vogelsang says their plan to hand out the books directly to kids was scratched, but they couldn’t just let the books sit.
“We had some volunteers that were willing to come in, and we spread out - masks and gloves, and everything like that. Basically in a day-and-a- half’s time our volunteers packed 4,000 backpacks,” said Vogelsang.
Volunteers helped deliver backpacks with books to schools in the area, where students could pick them up whenever they went to pick up school supplies or their report cards. Although Arise 2 Read was able to get the books in many students’ homes, some still have not been picked up.
“When they come back, a lot of the teachers know who didn’t come and get their supplies, they know whose backpack is there waiting for them. Our hope and prayer is that at some point every child that was in a Shelby County School, a Millington school or one of the three Achievement Schools districts that we serve will end up with that backpack,” said Vogelsang.
Vogelsang says getting these books to second grade students is crucial, especially during the summer.
“Those K-2 years are foundational for children that are learning how to read. If kids will read four to six books in the summer, they can maintain their reading gains that they made in the prior year,” said Vogelsang.