As the summer winds to a close, youth at 15 apartment communities in Virginia and Florida have started the school year with a distinct advantage. That’s because Community Housing Partners gave out hundreds of books and organized reading opportunities for youth through the CHP Reads! Summer Reading Program.

The program, which included Linden Green Apartments in Christiansburg and Meadowview Apartments in Pulaski, aimed to offset the “summer slide,” a term used to describe the academic regression experienced by students over the summer. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, the average student loses a month of academic-calendar learning every summer.

“We know from national research that children who participated in summer reading programs like ours scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those who did not participate,” said Tiffany Slusher, director of programs for CHP Resident Services. “Research has also found a link between socioeconomic status and the loss of reading skills experienced over the summer.”

At book fairs, volunteers distributed 1,391 books to 393 youth and 35 adults living at CHP properties. An additional 1,036 books were distributed to residents at nine CHP apartment communities throughout the summer.

Planning for the program began in the spring and continued throughout the summer. In April, CHP Resident Services collected books for the program, and CHP also encouraged volunteer, civic and faith-based organizations to sponsor book drives and accepted monetary donations so that it could purchase new books.

In May, CHP’s Energy Solutions Research and Training Center built Little Free Libraries that were installed at Linden Green Apartments and two other CHP apartment communities. Youth painted the libraries to make them their own. In June, CHP Resident Services held monster-themed book fairs, where volunteers read “Mac the Snack Monster” by Joel Moeller and children could take home books of their choosing.

Participating youth created “reading chains” at their apartment communities, where they created a paper link to add to a chain for every book finished this summer. In July, CHP held end-of-summer reading celebrations centered around the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.

“CHP Reads! was so successful that we hope to continue the program in future years and expand it to reach more kids,” said Slusher, who added that 13 volunteers in the New River Valley contributed almost 30 volunteer hours toward the program.

The resident services coordinators who implemented CHP Reads! at their apartment communities agreed. “The entire CHP Reads! is amazing. I love the positive impact it made on my kids,” wrote one of them. Another added, “I really enjoyed the book fair and thought it made the kick-off to summer programs more enjoyable. I hope next year we can have more events like this.”

In addition to Linden Green and Meadowview, more than a dozen other CHP apartment properties in cities in Virginia and Florida participated in the summer reading program.

Christiansburg-based Community Housing Partners was founded in 1975, and provides quality-built, responsibly managed, service-enriched homes for low-income individuals and families across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Learn more at www.communityhousingpartners.org.

Submitted by Michael Sutphin

Submitted by Michael Sutphin

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