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May 28, 2019

Dive into Reading Program Expands into Sarasota County

The nationally recognized summer learning program, Dive Into Reading, has expanded from Manatee into Sarasota County.

Dive Into Reading began in 2017 with John and Amanda Horne, owners of Anna Maria Oyster Bar, in conjunction with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge.

Currently, the challenge features partnerships with more than 90 summer programs in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota that pledge to incorporate reading into their weekly activities. The goal is for each child to read at least six books over the summer.

In 2018, the Hornes were awarded the National Restaurant Association’s Education Foundation Good Neighbor Award for Dive Into Reading.

The average low-income child loses between 2.5 to 3 3 months of reading proficiency each summer, but students who participated in Dive Into Reading showed considerably less loss of reading proficiency than their peers. Due to the success of the program, it expanded to four locations in Manatee County last summer.

Last fall, the Hornes met with Todd Bowden, superintendent of Sarasota County schools and School Board member Eric Robinson to discuss expanding the program into Sarasota County.

Rising second-graders from Brentwood Elementary who attend the school’s summer learning academy will be taken by bus to Gecko’s Grill & Pub on Fruitville Road once a week. There, they will be taught by a reading specialist and then practice with their mentor while eating breakfast. In addition to reading, kids will be taught soft skills like ordering from a menu and restaurant etiquette.

“When children aren’t going to school over the summer, they have a tendency to lose some of the skills they have learned during the previous school year,” said Gina Cirillo, ESOL liaison at Glenallen Elementary and coordinator of Dive Into Reading for Sarasota County schools.

“The goal for this program is to stop the summer slide, which is especially the case for kids who might not have books at home,” Amanda Horne said. “These kids will be going home with a bag full of books.”

More than 400 volunteers have signed up so far, and the Sarasota program still requires 15 more. In Manatee County, the clerk of courts and city government encourage their employees to volunteer and let them take time off work to do so, something Horne has encouraged other businesses in Sarasota to do as well. If you are interested in volunteering, please sign up HERE.

This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.

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