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L.O.U. Reads Coalition Promotes Summer Learning

Oxford families look forward to the summer break from school, but for many young students it can lead to summer learning loss. Children who lack educational opportunities during the months while school is out can experience academic setbacks.

LOU READS LOGOParents often struggle to find programming with activities that stimulate the whole child and mitigate the effects of summer learning loss. Access to educational and enriching opportunities is critical for families to close the achievement gap between high- and low-income students.

The L.O.U. Reads Coalition is co-convened by the Lafayette County Literacy Council, United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County, the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, and the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction. The Coalition is committed to ensuring that all children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

Photo courtesy of LOUreads.org
Photo courtesy of LOUreads.org

The coalition is the second in Mississippi to join the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading. L.O.U. Reads focuses on enhancing school readiness, out-of-school time (after- and summer-school) programming, and in-school tutoring opportunities, as well as on promoting consistent school attendance and addressing chronic absenteeism.

Last year, the L.O.U. Reads Coalition held a book drive for Lafayette County children during the months of March and April. Approximately 800 books were distributed during the Summer Feeding program where any child under the age of 18 could come and enjoy a nutritious lunch during the summer months, offered by the Oxford School District.

This year the book drive will kick off again at the March Art Crawl at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. At this event, the Oxford Artist Guild and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council will also have a reception for the Student Art Show, featuring artwork by Lafayette County children.

The L.O.U. Reads Coalition is looking for ways to foster literacy and increase student engagement over the summer. Not all L.O.U. summer programs are at capacity, with many parents unaware of the variety of programming available.

L.O.U. Reads will also be putting out its summer referral flyer so parents learn about summer opportunities available in the community. It is a comprehensive list of the out-of-school time organizations offering summer programming for children.

“We’re trying to build upon the success of the book drive and distribution last year,” Emma Tkachuck of the McLean Institute, who chairs the Coalition’s Out-Of-School Time sub-group, explained. “Awareness is so important to helping children overcome summer learning loss. Our hope is to increase summer engagement and decrease summer learning loss by improving participation in the existing summer programs in the L.O.U. community,”

The flyer includes information about program cost and scholarship availability, and it will be distributed through lower elementary schools throughout the county.

Photo courtesy LOUreads.org
Photo courtesy LOUreads.org

“There are so many small ways to engage children so that they retain the knowledge they’ve learned at school. Our educators work so hard,” Meghan Gallagher, an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council said. “The broader community is really coming together to support their efforts and to support families. Some camps are free, some offer scholarships, like the arts council does and parents need to know that. The summer flyer and the book drive are a way to highlight how many resources exist in our community. Children deserve a fun summer and these programs are both educational and entertaining,”

Much of the programming offered is fun and enriching with educational components. Programs like the Oxford Park Commission Day Camp, the Boys & Girls Barksdale Clubhouse Summer Program, Little Carrots Camp from Good Food for Oxford Schools, and the variety of camps at the University of Mississippi offer physical fun as well as educational opportunities to help reduce summer learning loss and keep kids on track.

Starting in 2014, L.O.U. Reads has been bringing out-of-school time providers together for a monthly coffee hour to intentionally foster networking, collaboration, and the sharing of best practices. Supported by the United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County, the coffee hours have brought together a diverse set of area program providers: the Boys & Girls Club, Camp Lake Stevens, Girl Scouts of America, The Gordon Cultural and Community Center/Abbeville School, Lafayette County School District, Leap Frog, The Lafayette County Literacy Council, Oxford School District, the Oxford Park Commission, McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, MS State Extension 4-H, Team Ra Martial Arts, the University of Mississippi Museum, and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

The coffee hours are free and open to the public, with interested community members welcome to attend. The next coffee hour is set for Tuesday, April 21, at 9 a.m. at Oxford University United Methodist Church.

For a copy of the summer referral sheet, contact Emma Tkachuck by phone at 662-915-2713 or by email at etkachuc@olemiss.edu.

About L.O.U. Reads

L.O.U. Reads is a coalition of leaders from local schools, several nonprofit organizations, the University of Mississippi, the L.O.U. Excel by 5 Coalition, and individuals working to help more of the community’s children read at grade-level by the end of third grade by addressing issues related to reading instruction, school readiness, out-of-school programs and attendance. For more information, visit: www.unitedwayoxfordms.org/lou-reads-coalition.

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