Kzoo Schools sending kids books over summer

District launches programs to combat literacy disparity between classes

Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice
Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice discusses summer literacy programs. (June 13, 2017)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — For many students, summer means time away from school and books.

But Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice says time spent reading during the summer that can make a difference in a child’s ability to read in the long run.

“Middle-class kids and working-class and poor kids may grow similarly — and do grow largely similarly during the school year — but they do different on average in the summer,” Rice said Tuesday.

That’s because middle-class children are more likely to read in the summer and experience flat to increasing growth in reading levels. Working-class and poor children are less likely to read in the summer and have flat to declining reading levels.

“That gap each summer adds up to a pretty profound gap when kids move into third grade, sixth grade, ninth grade,” Rice said.

To help combat the problem, KPS is launching a series of literacy initiatives. Over the course of the summer, the school district will mail eight books to children going into third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. The students get to choose seven of those titles to keep.

The district will spend $300,000 out of its general fund to send a total of 32,000 books to children this summer.

“When our children are experiencing no text at home greater than what’s on the back of the cereal box, that’s not going to get them through high school, it’s not going to get them into and through college,” Rice said.

Additionally, the school district will open certain school libraries to all KPS elementary students. It is also cosponsoring a diversity and reading conference and continues to promote the Lift Up Through Literacy Program designed for families.

In January, two KPS schools were placed on the Michigan School Reform Office’s list of 38 failing public schools, making them subject to closure. Closure was avoided when the school board came to an agreement with the state. Rice said the summer initiates were not created in response to that agreement.

“This is a wake-up call,” Rice said. “It’s a wake-up call to anybody who permits their kid to park over the summer.”