CHAMPAIGN — For the first time, Champaign's PTA Council is putting together its first summer reading program, and it's seeking help from community members to make it happen.
The summer reading program is multifaceted. The council hopes to provide students with academic and financial needs summer activity workbooks and books to read. It will also host several summer educational activities and a read-a-thon, which is scheduled for later this month.
The PTA Council is raising money to buy books, as well as collecting books to distribute to students. It's also seeking donations to help with the activity nights, which will have science, math, art and literacy themes (please see box).
The summer reading program, for the time being, is targeting Champaign's elementary students.
It fits with the school district's goal to have every student reading at grade level by third grade, said PTA Council President Anna Simon said.
And, "it's just the right thing to do," she said.
The PTA Council is made up of representatives of all the Champaign schools' PTAs.
The activity books are also called bridge books, because they help students retain what they learned the previous school year and get a start on what they'll be learning next year.
Simon said it's difficult for parents to create a summer curriculum for their children, and even if they have time to do so, they don't always know what to include.
Plus, many times, parents don't realize how much knowledge students lose over the summer.
The PTA Council is working with elementary principals and teachers to identify the neediest students. Those who can afford the books can buy them for their children, Simon said, and a small percentage of that amount will be used to help pay for books the council will give away.
The PTA Council will raise money to buy books for students with a read-a-thon for Champaign students, and it's working with local consultants from Usborne Books to do so.
Those who participate will collect pledges and read a certain number of minutes from May 13-24.
Students will be able to use 70 percent of the money they raise to buy books from Usborne for their own summer reading, and 30 percent will be used toward buying books the PTA Council will distribute.
If someone wishes to donate who doesn't know a Champaign student, the PTA Council will have a general read-a-thon fund.
Another way the PTA Council is hoping to help students retain knowledge during the summer months is to host several activity nights. It's working with the University of Illinois' Office of Volunteer Programs to gather volunteers to help with the activity nights, and Simon said she's hoping UI education students will help put activities together for students at specific grade levels and will appeal to those with various learning styles.
Simon said she's also hoping the activity nights can provide 30 minutes of tutoring for students who need help with their summer bridge books.
"We're going to try to (host) them in locations that are easy for parents to get to," Simon said.
How to help
If you're interested in donating money, books or supplies for the Champaign PTA Council's summer reading program, contact Council President Anna Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also contact PTA Council Vice President Sheri Williamson at email@example.com or 217-721-6540.