Rochester, New York was recently ranked one of the poorest cities in the United States. More than half of its children live in poverty.
But on an early summer day, the students in the Rochester City School District have a spring in their step as they walk down the hallway – they’re getting 10 new books to take home for the summer.
“You get to keep these books!” says one student to one of their new classmates. “You don’t have to give them back, these books are ours!”
“Our kids’ lives are different from the lives of kids in Rochester’s suburban neighborhoods,” says Aimee Rinere, secretary of the Rochester Teachers Association. “It’s not safe for them to go outside. There are many obstacles our kids face on a daily basis including poor attendance at school, unsafe neighborhoods, and finding their next meal. They simply don’t have the opportunities, books and resources other kids have.”
The district’s Superintendent, Rochester Teachers Association and the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals are dedicated to the success of his students and getting them to read at grade level by the third grade, no matter the obstacles. As a way to combat summer learning loss every student has received books to take home for the past two years. Over 300,000 books have been given away in total.
The students in Kindergarten to Second Grade were each given ten books, and this year five were books of their choosing. The older students were able to choose two books to take home.
“Some of the older girls chose the same book. They made plans to meet during the summer to read them together and have a book club,” Aimee explained.
Some students who didn’t want to take books home were met by the protests of their classmates.
“Why don’t you want to read? You should take a book. It will make you a better student,” they said. Without any prompting from the teachers or librarians, the students are now encouraging each other to read.
“We couldn’t put these books into kids’ hands without First Book’s help,” said Aimee. “We’re leveling the playing field for our kids’ with these books, and at the end of the school year we know that, if nothing else, they have the resources we are giving them.”