GREAT FALLS – Calling all bookworms-in-training: With school libraries closed for the year, students and families in Great Falls need not worry about where they can find their next great summer read. Courtesy of an annual Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) program, you could take home up to six books by summer’s end — for free.
A communitywide partnership in its eighth year, “Summer Read 6” has earmarked 10 book giveaways from June until late August. The tradition kicked off last Tuesday at Parkdale Hall and will continue all summer long at schools and parks around the Electric City. It concludes August 22 with a celebration at Pinski Park.
The group will also be set up at Lions Fun Day on July 13, and organizers are slated to shadow the GFPS food truck several times over the summer months. Students who rely on the food truck when school is out can expect to see volunteers, and have their choice of books, on three separate occasions.
Summer Read 6 is a $7,000-per-year operation funded by United Way of Cascade County and the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation. The program relies on the donation of gently used books and is administered in part by the Early Childhood Coalition, a local charitable organization. Volunteers range from school district officials to librarians to teachers, all area residents exemplifying a hope of extending their impact beyond the classroom.
In total, the group doled out almost 4,000 books last year — 3,909 to be exact, according to Carol Paul, GFPS title coordinator. “This year, we’re hoping for 5,000,” Paul told MTN News.
Paul, who works with kids in the school district that struggle with reading, said new evidence from last year has shown how the collaborative effort is paying off in a big way.
“Last year, we [did] a specific evaluation of kids who got six books,” she said. “There were […] 105 kids who got books. 10 of them moved away, but of the rest, only three of them […] didn’t maintain their scores.” Otherwise, Paul said, the test scores of those taking advantage of Summer Read 6 did something pretty remarkable.
They went up.
“We have lots of great strategies to teach them how to read, but the way to be a good reader is to read,” Paul explained. “We have lots of free books, so come and get them.”
And those free books are not just for kids. A press release from GFPS details how the program offers books available to readers “three months to 99 years.” Paul echoed that point, saying she has more than just “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (a series that sells like hotcakes) to choose from.
“We have books for grown-ups [and] high schools kids,” she said. “We have lots of graphic novels. We have books for babies, [and] 25% of our folks who come are preschoolers.”
Each student or family member can take home up to two books per week, totaling six books by August. Paul does, however have one rule: “You can only take a book you want to read,” she said.
Those interested in signing up for continuous Remind text updates, notifying when Summer Read 6 events will take place, can do so here. You can find more information regarding how to donate your gently used books by contacting Carol Paul at (406) 268-6779.
A list of the full Summer Read 6 schedule is attached below. It can also be found on the GFPS website.