With literacy down, summer reading programs look to turn tide

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 14, 2014) — Just as a new study shows children’s literacy and reading frequency are down, programs in central Indiana hope to turn the trends around.

On Wednesday, the groups Reading is Fundamental and USA Funds will launch their new effort to distribute more than 1,000 free books to five Indianapolis schools over the course of a year.  Author Kelly Starling Lyons will read her book Tea Cakes for Tosh and give away free copies to about 80 third-grade students at William McKinley School No. 39 on the near east side at 10 a.m.

Earlier this week, the nonprofit Common Sense Media released a study showing negative trends in children’s literacy, reporting that only about one-third of fourth-grade students are “proficient” in reading.

What’s more, the study states the amount of 9-year-old children who read for leisure once or more per week dropped to 76 percent last year, down from 81 percent in 1984.  The rate of 17-year-olds who reported reading for pleasure less than twice a year climbed to almost 50 percent.

With the school year almost at an end in Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Public Library’s 95th annual Summer Reading Program hopes to help motivate kids to turn to books by awarding points and prizes for the number of books read.

Orvella Fields, who manages the Learning Curve at Central Library, told FOX59 News this year’s theme is “Read in Any Language.”

“Reading a book can take you anywhere that you want to go,” Fields said.  “Just getting kids motivated to read on topics that they like is really what we encourage here at the library.”

The biggest impact on childhood literacy rates and reading frequency could be in how parents prioritize the practice, Fields said.

“Children should read books and listen to books that they enjoy on topics that they love,” she said.  “Reading aloud to children is really the big motivator for encouraging future reading.”

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