Literacy has been a core focus of The Junior League for decades.  But the kind of literacy program that makes us smile is a program that puts good books in the hands of kids.  And what better time to do that than in summer!

Everyone knows the story.  How does reading impact a child at an early age?  According to the U.S. Department of Education, generally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores in school.  Ditto for children when adults read to them in the home.  Unfortunately, children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to have books to read on their own or to be read aloud to them at home.

In fact, that’s the focus of a story in TIME Magazine on school districts around the country extending class time into the summer to help avoid “summer learning loss.”

That’s where many Leagues are already helping, both year-round and in the summer.

Many League members are already involved in volunteering at their local libraries to run reading time and other fund activities that motivate families and children to keep reading in their daily schedules.  For example, the Junior League of Huntsville provides volunteers to staff the Summer Reading Program of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library.  During the program, JLH members help welcome children to these events at all locations of the library.  The League also helps to fund other important library programs year-round, including the Ready Readers Program, which works with pre-K children in Title 1 schools, Headstart, and Evenstart programs.

Other Leagues have their own summer-reading programs.  One of the Junior League of Tyler’s signature programs is the Summer Reading Camp.  The program is offered to incoming 3rd grade students who are referred by a teacher or counselor.  The one-week camp offers campers games and activities designed to improve their reading skills and encourage a love of reading.

The Junior League of Birmingham has created programs that directly connect the issue of literacy with the availability of books.  Literacy Council: Birmingham Reads, a JLB partners with the Children’s Literacy Guild, Better Basics, and the Children’s Literacy Guild of Alabama, raises literacy awareness in two ways.  First, scheduled for next April, the 3rd annual Birmingham’s Biggest Book Drive collects new and gently used children’s books and distributes them to agencies in need in the Birmingham community.  Second, by United We Read, a program in the Birmingham schools that brings together volunteers from the community on the same day in April to read in each K-through-5 classroom.  (And every child in the class gets a copy of the book being read!)

The Junior League of Birmingham was also an early participant in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides preschool kids with their own library of books to encourage a love of reading and learning from an early age.  Imagination Library has since become an international program, including Leagues like the Junior League of Albany (N.Y.), the Junior League of Owensboro and the Junior League of London.