(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont, Connecticut State Department of Education Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker, and Connecticut State Librarian Deborah Schander today launched a re-envisioned 2023 Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge that places a stronger focus on increasing summer reading activities and improved literacy outcomes for all students.
The Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge is a statewide competition for schools based on student population and grade level. Since 1996, this premier program has encouraged students to read books over the summer months when they are out of school. The summer reading program also supports community initiatives run by local public libraries and recognizes “Outstanding Public Library-School Partnerships.”
This modernization of the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge will be supported by an investment of $370,000 in funding Connecticut Received from the American Rescue Plan Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which will be used for the summers of 2023 and 2024. This funding will strengthen the partnership between the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Connecticut State Library, and the Connecticut Association of School Librarians, and to continue to support local school districts and public libraries, while building sustainable partnerships between public libraries and school districts that further support improved statewide literacy outcomes and goals.
Specifically, the investment will:
- Create supportive reading environments through a summer reading ambassador pilot program, which will bring trained reading ambassadors to barbershops, parks, pediatricians’ offices, laundromats, and other areas where students and families have time to read.
- Create a method for participating local libraries and school districts to purchase high-quality reading materials for students and libraries.
- Funds a Summer Programs Coordinator at the Connecticut State Library and iRead membership within the Connecticut State Library to strengthen programming year-round.
Additionally, the 2023 Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge winning schools will be chosen through a renewed series of metrics. Previously, the number of books read determined winning districts. For the upcoming summer, top performing districts will be chosen by the percentage of total school student population participating in reading activities over the summer months. This change will ensure all students, regardless of native language, reading level, and learning ability, are encouraged to participate and read. The Connecticut State Department of Education will also be tracking the number of library visits by participating students.
Also included in the challenge for the first time this year are Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s StoryWalk experiences. StoryWalk experiences encourage students and families to read while enjoying state and local parks that offer these activities. Metrics will be tracked on the number of StoryWalk experiences visited by students at participating schools.
Governor Lamont said, “Summer reading is not just a pastime, it’s a critical tool for academic success. It helps students maintain and improve their reading skills, while also fostering a love of learning and discovery. But we can’t do it alone. Partnerships between schools and libraries are essential to providing students with access to a diverse range of books, resources, and programs that can help them thrive both academically and personally. By working together, we can ensure that every student has the opportunity to explore the world through reading.”
Commissioner Russell-Tucker said, “Investing in summer reading programs is critical to our continued commitment to ensuring that all students can read proficiently by the third grade. Research shows that students who do not read during the summer months are at risk of falling behind their peers, particularly in grade-level reading. By providing access to high-quality reading materials with supportive learning environments, we can help foster the joys of reading and ensure that all students have the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.”
State Librarian Schander said, “Summer reading is not just about books, but rather a journey of imagination, knowledge, and growth. In this journey, we must ensure that every student has access to the tools they need to succeed. For students with disabilities, audiobooks and graphic novels are just as essential as traditional books, providing unique avenues for learning and self-expression. This reimagined summer challenge will encourage all students to explore the world of literature in their own way and empower them to reach their full potential.”
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said, “The magical outdoor spaces of Connecticut State Parks are the perfect scene for families to enjoy summer reading together. Our new Connecticut State Park StoryWalks, part of our No Child Left Inside initiative, invite children and their caregivers to enjoy the fresh air while going on their own outdoor reading adventure. Exercise, nature, and literacy combine to help families create summer memories and experience our state parks in a new way. The best part is that our StoryWalks will encourage year-round outdoor reading experiences as different books are chosen each season. We are delighted for this statewide partnership and opportunity to encourage more family time in our State Parks.”