Racquets for Reading!!! -- Our Second Year
Want to be a great adult?
Play tennis! Read books! Eat healthy! Have FUN!!!
Be a QuickStart kid!
“The most important thing for literacy development is access to books. If we spent money on giving children books to take home instead of on testing them, their achievement would go up.” Paul Thomas, Professor of Education, Furman University
During the 2020/2021 school year, we created Racquets for Reading!!! to support preschoolers and kindergartners during the COVID crisis. Their school readiness and reading scores needed a boost and COVID was only going to make things worse. Over eight months, we raised funds for 2,800 kids in 16 different school systems. By the end of the school year, 2,335 kids had received 25,000+ books and FUN giveaways. Racquets for Reading!!! was so straightforward, impactful, well-received and deeply appreciated by kids, parents, teachers and administrators year, doing a second year was a no-brainer, and we set even higher expectations for ourselves -- 2,465 preschoolers and 1,980 kindergartners.
UPDATE (5/25/2022): We keep score!!! The 2021/2022 school year is over in some of our counties and will soon be over in others. Since we launched Racquets for Reading!!! in November 2020, we have reached more than 6,400 kids. We are most grateful for our grantors and supporters who have made this possible. We are gearing up for Year Three and hope to reach 8,000 kids. WOW!!!
Preschoolers and/or kindergartners in the following schools systems have received grants for books and FUN giveaways.
- Albemarle, Amelia, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Culpeper, Cumberland, Danville, Fluvanna, Franklin, Greene, Greensville, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Martinsville, Mecklenburg, Nelson, Nottoway, Orange, Patrick, Prince Edward, Rappahannock (24 of 31 school systems, so far, and some of them in two school years.)
We have also helped start chapters of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Buckingham, Culpeper, Cumberland, Madison, Prince Edward and Rappahannock counties and assisted in the expansion of the existing chapter in Charlottesville to add Albemarle County.
As Dolly says, "You can never get enough books into the hands of enough children."
Here's how the second year of Racquets for Reading!!! works . . .
- We target all preschoolers in our 30-school system service area who participate in free Virginia Preschool Initiative programs in public schools. In our service area, there are almost 3,400 preschoolers who are either disadvantaged, at-risk of academic failure for a variety of reasons, or both and need to be prepared for the critical kindergarten year. We prioritze schools in under-resourced, rural areas.
- We then target another 2,000 kindergartners in schools systems where third grade reading scores are below 70% (15 school systems in our service area) and poverty rates are significant.
- As funding permits, we next we focus on kindergartners in individual schools with lower reading scores and higher poverty rates in school systems with reading scores above 70%.
- We contact the school systems and let them know we are looking for funding for their students.
- Once funding is received, we send a a check payable to "Scholastic Book Club" and the teacher selects and orders books to suit the classroom demographics. We then order mini reading rubber duckies and banana-scented bookmarks and send an assortment of Go Bananas for QuickStart! cards to the schools.
- All we ask in return -- photos of the kids with the books and giveaways, a list of books purchased and thank-you notes sent to the donors who make this possible.
We truly believe "it takes a village" to help kids, especially the disadvantaged and at-risk, thrive. We partner with anyone who shares our goal of creating happy, healthy, active and literate kids. We think literacy is the key ingredient to success in life and we back that up with deliberate actions to leverage the FUN of kid-sized tennis, engage kids and foster a love of reading. Keep it FUN! Help the kids be successful in learning to read or play tennis! Get the local community invested and involved. See the results show up in test scores and in lives. Pretty simple.
Our partners include: school administrators and teachers, local libraries, local civic clubs, local, regional and national private foundations, charitable trusts, community foundations, landowners with significant local property interests (quarries, solar farms, timber companies, etc.), literacy-based organizations, departments of social services, donors who wish to remain anonymous and individuals who support early childhood literacy.
Creating a "Reading Pathway"
Our vision is to create a "reading pathway" for kids from birth through kindergarten by combining Racquets for Reading!!! with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library (DPIL). What Dolly Parton has done with the creation of the Imagination Library is unparalled. Starting 27 years ago, she saw the need to get books into the hands of kids early in life. Each registered child receives a thoughtfully curated book mailed to their home each month from age 0 to 5. Local chapters of DPIL organize, administer and market the program and fund the $25.20 annual cost per child.
- We partnered with the Heights Family Foundation to launch a DPIL chapter for Madison and Culpeper counties in April 2021. We helped enroll 297 kids in only fours days! Now it's up to 879 kids.
- We partnered with the Cumberland County Public Library to start a chapter of DPIL which may ultimately serve 450 kids.
- We are also partnering with organizations in Nelson County to launch Read Ourselves GREEN in Nelson County.
- Central Virginia Regional Library (CVRL) in Prince Edward County is our partner established Dolly's Imagination Library for the 1,000+ kids under age five who reside there. We are also partnered with the CVRL branch in Buckingham County to start DPIL for the 755 kids there and found funding for them to get started.
- The Rotary Club of Charlottesville has expanded its DPIL chapter to include all zip codes in Albemarle County and we are helping find them funding to support the expansion. They are up to 1,177 kids. We're going to participate in a local DPIL Advisory Committee.
- Most recently we partnered with the Headwaters Foundation and the Rappahannock County Public Library to start a DPIL chapter for 350 kids in a collaboration with the Heights Family Foundation.
- Before we could get to Mecklenburg County, a retired college professor gathered a group of 13 residents to start a DPIL chapter for the western part of the county in February 2021. We hope to help them expand to include the eastern part too.
If you would like to contribute to Racquets for Reading!!!, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The more books, the merrier these kids will get to be!