- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Neighborhood reading centers across Chattanooga have been stocked with new books to help occupy the minds of children over the summer.

The United Way of Greater Chattanooga is behind the initiative to distribute 3,000 books to centers that are within walking distance for most children in the city.

United Way official Elizabeth Tallman told The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1prfkCL) that the centers should be stocked and ready to open Saturday.

“We believe when kids can read they will be more successful in life,” said Tallman, who is the associate director of community impact.

Tallman said there are a variety of books for school-age children, from kindergarten to 12th grade. Titles for younger readers include “Curious George” and “Mouse Paint,” while titles for older students include “Lord of the Flies” and “The Old Man and the Sea.”

The city’s youth and family development centers house most reading centers, but there a handful of other locations including the Public Library and the North River YMCA.

The U.S. Department of Education encourages summer reading programs since studies have shown that children can lose two months’ worth of reading and math skills over the long break from classes.

A statement from the United Way says more than half of third graders in Hamilton County Schools are reading below grade level. It says statistics show children reading at grade level by third grade have a greater chance of success later in life.

Tallman said the organization’s goal is to help students have career choices when they become adults.

Volunteers spent much of the last week sorting books by grade level and distributing them.

“Other people helped us out, so I think it’s important to help others,” said Jeffery Maddux, a volunteer and an attorney at the law firm of Chambliss, Bahner and Stophel.

Eight-year-old Carter Shiveley also helped sort books.

“Reading is fun,” he said. “You can learn a lot from books.”

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

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