- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - With 66 percent of Kentucky’s fourth-graders not able to read at that grade level, Owensboro Public Schools is launching a new Owensboro READS program on Thursday that’s designed to encourage elementary students - and their families - to spend more time reading this summer.

“We’re excited about it,” Superintendent Nick Brake said Wednesday. “We’ve been working on it since last fall.”

The district created a Literacy Task Force with both educators and community members to find a way to improve reading skills in the district.

Janie Moseley, Foust principal, is co-chairwoman of the task force.

“Reading difficulties go across all income levels,” she said. “But they’re more prevalent among lower-income families.”

The ideas that are being adopted include summer reading contests, reading camps and a community-wide reading campaign - Owensboro READS.

The campaign has a new website, owensbororeads.com, which includes information about the program and such things as finding ways to access free books online.

The idea, Brake said, is “for kids to be successful as they move on in school. We need to help those who aren’t around the written word as much as the other students.”

Friday is the last day of school for city students.

The new program is being launched this week to encourage students to read this summer and avoid what’s called the “summer slide.”

The U.S. Department of Education says, “On average, students lose the equivalent of two months of math and reading skills during the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.”

Brake said Owensboro READS is partnering with the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro to launch a long-term effort to increase literacy for both children and adults.

The foundation approved a grant of $100,000 to the city schools to develop a summer reading program.

Plans call for a six-week camp focusing on raising reading levels for 80 second-graders.

“There will be a lot of other activities too,” Brake said.

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