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U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Kicks Off Department's Summer Reading Initiative: "Read to the Top!"
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June 24, 2009
Contact: Jo Ann Webb, (202) 401-1576
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today kicked off the Department's summer reading campaign--"Read to the Top!" --with the children's classic books "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Where the Wild Things Are." The Secretary read to young children, including his own, on the plaza of the Department's Lyndon Baines Johnson headquarters building. The initiative is in response to President Obama's "United We Serve" national volunteer campaign that calls for all Americans to serve in their communities over the summer.

At lunchtime throughout the summer, the Department's weekly reading campaign, which runs through Sept. 11, will feature various children's books read by the Secretary, other Cabinet members and top Administration officials. The Department, in collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service, is partnering with libraries and other community organizations nationwide to combat summer reading loss.

"The road to academic success begins early, which is why early childhood learning and reading are so important," Secretary Duncan said. "When we read to our kids, it helps them become better readers and develop a love of reading on their own."

Research shows that reading achievement can drastically decline over the summer, particularly for low-income children who rely solely on their school libraries for books to read. Scholastic, a global children's publishing, education and media company, and a sponsor of "Read to the Top!" states that research shows that the key to stemming summer reading loss is finding novel ways to get books into the hands of children during the summer break. Thanks to a generous book donation from them, children will be able to take home their own books to read during the summer. Scholastic has donated more than 1,700 books for the Department's "Read to the Top!" campaign.

"Kids need books in their schools, communities and homes, not just during the school year but in the summer months, too," Scholastic CEO and Chairman Richard Robinson said. "We are proud to support 'Read to the Top!' with books that kids can take home, read and share with their families and friends."

In addition to Scholastic, Target enlivened the plaza's reading area with colorful rugs and beanbag chairs to create the feeling of a public library or classroom. "Target is committed to enhancing educational opportunities for kids and giving them the tools they need to succeed," Laysha Ward, president of Community Relations, says. "One of these opportunities is through our partnership with the U.S. Department of Education's summer initiative, 'Read to the Top!' which gives Washington, D.C. area families a fun way to explore reading together in a unique setting."

In addition to the Department's efforts to stop summer reading loss through "Read to the Top!" it also awards Striving Readers grants aimed at raising the literacy level of adolescent students and building a strong, scientific research base for adolescent literacy instruction. This year's competition is underway, and the deadline is Aug. 10. Striving Readers grants were first awarded in March 2006. To date, the Department has awarded approximately $120 million for projects aimed at helping struggling readers. When this year's grants are awarded, State Education Agencies will receive approximately $7.2 million to implement and evaluate supplemental literacy programs for struggling readers in middle and high schools. For more information about these grants, log onto www.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders/applicant.html.

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