Governor’s Early Literacy Program has mailed over 4M books to TN students and teachers since 2020

Published 11:02 am Friday, June 7, 2024

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To combat learning loss and strengthen early literacy in Tennessee, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) celebrates the fifth year of its K-3 Home Library program, serving all rising 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students enrolled in a public school,as well as librarians and media specialists. In collaboration with Scholastic,the global children’s publishing, education and media company, the program has placed more than 4.4 million books in the homes of more than 739,000 elementary school students and teachers over the program’s history. 

This summer, the program will deliver an additional 1.3 million books to more than 230,000 students, teachers, librarians and media specialists statewide. Six high-quality packages consisting of grade-level books and evidence-based literacy resources will be delivered directly to the homes of participants, at no cost to families, individual schools,or school districts.

Through the K-3 HomeLibrary program, GELF is partnering with 162 school districts and charter schools to deliver books in all 95 Tennessee counties. Children enrolled in a participating school district were signed up to receive the books with an opt-out option for families, making it easy for all K-3 students to be a part of the program. The program continues to grow and will distribute more than 170,000 additional books to roughly 28,000 more students and teachers than in 2023.

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The books were selected by GELF’s Educator Advisory Council (EAC), a group of 28 diverse Tennessee educators that serve GELF’s K-3 initiatives. The EAC also created activity-based resources that are being provided to teachers and parents to help them incorporate the program’s books both inside the classroom and in homes. 

Only 40% of Tennessee 3rd graders read proficiently, up from 32% in 2021. Research shows that students who do not read over the summer lose two to three months of reading proficiency, but reading four to six books has the potential to stop, mitigate, or reverse this “summer slide.” Additionally, when schools are closed for the summer, access to books diminishes. 

Research from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report: 8th Edition shows that over 40% of kids get most of the books they read for fun from their school, making the expansion of this summer initiative more critical than ever. 

Research from Statewide surveys conducted by GELF reveal 33% of participating students have 100+ books in their home as a result of the K-3 Home Library program. Additionally, 97% of parents reported that their children were excited to receive the books and 96% reported the books were valuable to their family. “If you read today, you’re ready tomorrow,” said James Pond, GELF President. “As we celebrate our 20th anniversary as an organization and fifth year of the K-3 Home Library program, our goal is to create a more inclusive literacy environment by ensuring access to quality books and resources for all. Every child deserves their very own home library, and we are honored to work together with school districts, charter schools, and the Tennessee General Assembly to build these home libraries statewide. It’s more than books. It’s the future of Tennessee.”

This is GELF’s fifth year collaborating with Scholastic to deliver books and resources to students and teachers during the summer. The K-3 Home Library program launched as a pilot in Summer 2020, serving 75 school districts with 21,000 books mailed statewide. Since then, the number of school districts served has grown by 116% and the number of books has grown by 6,000%. “Scholastic is proud to have partnered with GELF over the last five years and to continue the important work to expand book access to the children who need it most,” said Beth Polcari, Executive Vice President and President of Scholastic Education Solutions. “It is crucial that we create a culture of reading and equip students with the tools necessary to be successful in their literacy journeys year-round, especially during the summer months when book access diminishes.”

As a classroom educator whose students have directly benefited from the K-3 Home Library Program, it is truly special to witness first-hand the smiles, laughter, and excitement as they return to school from summer break and share with one another the memories they have made with their book packs,” said Meredith McMackins, Second Grade Teacher at Fifth Consolidated Elementary School. “The books provide students with the perfect opportunity to utilize and maintain their reading skills. I am incredibly thankful for the K-3 Home Library Program and extremely proud of the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation’s commitment and success in strengthening early literacy for all students across Tennessee.

Since 2020, the response from children, parents and caregivers has been overwhelmingly positive, sharing feedback about the excitement of receiving new books in the mail, the joy of sharing stories together and the magic of escaping through a good book. 

The K-3 Home Library program is underwritten by the State of Tennessee.