Get Georgia Reading Partners Team up to Increase Summer Learning, Safety, and Access to Free Meals for Children and Teens

Kids across Georgia are eager for school to end this week. But for our state’s most vulnerable kids, summer vacation is a time of uncertainty about whether they will eat—and valuable time squandered sitting in front of the TV.

But kids still need to eat and learn when school’s out. That’s why Get Georgia Reading Campaign partners have teamed up to keep kids learning, safe, and healthy this summer.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS), and Georgia Public Broadcasting have launched, a new website where parents and children can access—in one place—links to healthy meals, safe environments, and books and educational opportunities that will keep their children engaged while they’re away from school.

Get Georgia Reading also teamed up with Clear Channel Outdoor Americas for a public service campaign. Billboards across the Metro Atlanta area, courtesy of Clear Channel’s Atlanta Division, are pointing to the website.

Curbing summer learning loss

“Nothing could be more important than making sure Georgia’s students are safe, healthy, and learning,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “Each summer, we look for new ways to spread the word far and wide about opportunities for children and families, because we want to make sure no child goes hungry or loses educational ground. I’m grateful for the partnerships—between the public and private entities making up the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, and through the generosity of Clear Channel Outdoor Americas—that made this campaign a reality.”

Research shows that students who don’t read can lose up to three months of reading ability over the summer. This phenomenon, known as summer slide, can lower achievement potential and widen the achievement gap. Fortunately, this is preventable. Children who read and learn during the summer may even show some growth in their reading ability.

“We believe in using our resources to inspire action in the thousands of neighborhoods where we operate our business, and feel summer learning and summer meals helps to set the foundation for future individual and community success,” said Jack Jessen, regional president, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas.

State Librarian Julie Walker agrees. “GPLS and Georgia’s public libraries work to promote the value and joy of reading and learning,” she said. “At no time is this more important and relevant than summer. Summer reading plays a vital role in continuing the learning process while providing the happy place that is found in books. GPLS is delighted to invite all of Georgia’s families to visit the more than 400 public libraries participating in this year’s summer reading program, and to indulge in one of summer’s pure pleasures—reading.”

Providing access to free, healthy meals

Access to meals during the summer is critical as well, since students often rely on the food they’re served during the school day.

“Through Georgia DECAL’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), children 18 and younger have access to free, healthy meals so they can continue to learn, play, and grow when school is not in session,” said DECAL Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs. “The Georgia Summer campaign ensures that families have access to a myriad of resources that will keep children engaged and well-fed during the summer months to stave off the summer slide. Ensuring that children have access to quality care and education regardless of family income or location is the vision of Georgia DECAL. Through this multi-agency partnership, families and children will have the resources to access just that.”

A simple, easy-to-use toolkit for summer resources aims to pull together resources and information developed by public and private partners across the state. Parents and families can use the site to find resources for reading and learning over the summer; find a location to receive a free, healthy meal for their student; and learn more about summer safety.

“We encourage community leaders, librarians, educators, and parents to help spread the word,” said Get Georgia Reading Campaign Director Arianne Weldon. “Download our virtual billboard and share it on your websites and social media platforms. And share photos, videos, and stories that show how families are incorporating these tools into everyday life using the hashtag #SchoolsOutGA.”

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