Kingsport Times-News: United WE READ aims to fight the summer reading slide among children

Kingsport Times-News: KINGSPORT — United WE READ kicked off its annual summer book club earlier this week at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center splash pad, with a morning filled with food, fun, games and a little bit of water.


The theme of the fourth annual event is “Summer Olympics Book Club,” and activities included Olympic-themed events, games, crafts and prizes. Six hundred and eighty students in grades kindergarten through third have received age-appropriate, Olympic-themed book and literacy packets with activities and worksheets.

United WE READ is a community impact initiative of the United Way of Greater Kingsport and seeks to raise visibility, improve connections and engage supporters to build a literacy-rich community. Its goal is to see 100 percent of area 3rd graders reading proficiently, and strives itself to be a key community player leading the fight to improve literacy rates among the young of our region.


“United WE READ was elated to introduce the excitement of the summer Olympics to a new group of kids,” said Emily Merritt, United WE READ manager. “We’re working to combat the dreaded ‘summer slide’ that happens when kids are not engaged in reading throughout the summer months. In hosting the kick-off and the book club, the students will take that excitement from receiving their brand-new books and participating in today’s activities back to their homes and summer camps to read and learn more in the following weeks.”


Over 680 kindergarten through third graders registered to participate in the book club, which lasts until July 15th.


At Tuesday’s kick-off, more than 50 volunteers came together to direct hundreds of children in their own Olympic games. Throughout the volunteer-built course, at stations marked with flags from countries around the world, these children could be seen completing the long jump, running the 50-yard dash, making crafts, having faces painted, learning weight-lifting techniques or even throwing the “javelin” through a giant 3-D Olympic rings structure—all made of foam pool noodles.


The United WE READ After School and Summer Team includes representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Tri-Cities, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kingsport, Boy Scouts of America, Sequoyah Council, Girls Inc., Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, Greater Kingsport Family YMCA, the Kingsport Public Library, Kingsport Parks and Recreation, the Lee Family Learning Center, Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center and the YWCA of Bristol.