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April 18, 2018

Local Summer Reading Program Recognized Nationally

Anna Maria Oyster Bar received national recognition for their efforts to help children avoid summer learning loss through the Dive Into Reading summer program. During a special awards gala in Washington, DC, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) presented Anna Maria Oyster Bar with the 2018 Restaurant Neighbor Award for demonstrating a commitment to serving their communities through outstanding charitable service and philanthropy. The annual award is part of the NRAEF’s celebration of the “best of the best” in diversity and inclusion, community service and hospitality leadership. Only seven winners were selected from hundreds of nominations.
“We have a long tradition of recognizing and encouraging diversity and inclusion, celebrating community engagement and recognizing our industry icons,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of the NRAEF. “With over one million restaurants in the U.S., our industry opens doors of opportunity for people of all backgrounds and cultures every day. Each year, the Foundation is excited and honored to recognize the people and businesses that truly embody these values and principles.”

In Manatee County, 49 percent of students are not reading on grade-level by the end of third grade. When John and Amanda Horne of Anna Maria Oyster Bar learned this disheartening statistic, they worked with the School District of Manatee County, the library system and the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to find ways to support and improve reading standards in the community and beyond. Focusing on summer learning is a key solution area of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading because low-income children lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement over the summer, which slows their progress toward third-grade reading proficiency — a key indicator of future success in school and in life.

In June 2017, Dive Into Reading was launched at Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Ellenton to improve children’s reading abilities while also teaching important life skills, like table manners, intergenerational communication, and decision-making. The program became a collaboration between the Anna Maria Oyster Bar and its suppliers who helped provide students a hot breakfast before being paired with volunteer mentors to read books in a fun and relaxing restaurant environment.

“Winning this award is the culmination of more than 20 years of giving back to the community with a focus on education for both children and adults,” said John Horne, president and CEO of Anna Maria Oyster Bar. “It inspires and motivates us to continue to ensure every student understands the importance of reading and to help low-income children succeed in school and in life.  National recognition is especially wonderful for Dive Into Reading as it gives us a platform to share with like-minded restaurateurs how to launch similar programs in their own communities.”

“Locally, Dive Into Reading was recognized as one of the most successful summer reading programs by the Suncoast Campaign with 76 children reading more than 1,600 books over a four-week period,” said Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for The Patterson Foundation. “The children that participated in Dive Into Reading actually gained 1.25 months of reading skills, which beats the national average by more than three months.”

The impact of Dive Into Reading was a key factor in NRAEF’s decision to present the 2018 Restaurant Neighbor Award to Anna Maria Oyster Bar, along with the restaurant’s continuing support for other local educational initiatives including PACE Center for Girls and the Horne & Moon Scholarship Fund that supports adults looking to further their education by going back to college or trade school. This summer, Anna Maria Oyster Bar is expanding Dive Into Reading to five Title I summer school locations with the goal of serving more than 300 children in June 2018. The expansion is made possible by community partnerships with School District of Manatee County, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, fellow restaurateurs, and many restaurant vendors.
Visit to learn more about Anna Maria Oyster Bar and to register as a mentor for Dive Into Reading in summer 2018. For more information about the Restaurant Neighbor Award, visit

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