Orange County Library System (OCLS) is one of 23 organizations in Florida to receive a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, which provides philanthropic support to communities where Duke Energy customers live and work. OCLS has been awarded $5,000 for its Summer Reading Program (SRP) outreach efforts to overcome a learning gap brought on by COVID-19.
Part of the Summer Reading Program encourages children to read at least 20 minutes a day and track their progress towards a 600-minute reading goal. Daily reading has a positive impact on academics and helps minimize the learning gap attributed to summer-learning loss. This grant will help increase access and awareness to several library branch locations – Eatonville, Fairview Shores, North Orange, and South Trail – which had lower-than-normal participation in the library’s Summer Reading Program last summer among children ages 4-8.
COVID-19 has left many children in these communities at a disadvantage because of distance learning. Many families in these locations speak a language other than English. This language barrier made accessing school resources more difficult, making it even more important for the library to provide learning opportunities in the summer. The goal for this grant is to reach and enroll students living near specific library branches in the Summer Reading Program, encouraging them to participate in events, programs and reading challenges. Through intensive outreach using multilingual resources, the library hopes to reach families who did not participate in last summer’s program. Additionally, Summer Reading Program materials, such as reading trackers and marketing pieces, have been created in English, Spanish, and Haitian/Creole.
“No library in Florida has received the Duke Energy Grant this year,” says Youth Service Manager Natalie Houston. “We’re excited to be awarded this grant since it typically focuses on STEM programming in Florida. It also helps our outreach efforts in connecting with people in communities who may not have these opportunities, and giving children the tools and exposure to learn and excel.”
A special initiative children will earn from this program is free books. Each child that participates will receive a free book from the Diverse Book Giveaway. Offering families books to read and discuss together helps engage parents and caregivers in their child’s literacy development at home. In offering this giveaway, it ensures equitable access to learning resources and creating an inclusive environment representative of the families in our community.