SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A popular summer reading program in City Heights had to adapt to overcome challenges from the Coronavirus.
In previous years, the United Way of San Diego County's Readers in the Heights program offered kids a chance to explore books through active reading and play at community centers throughout the area. It aims to help kids avoid the summer "brain drain" of falling behind while not in class.
In 2020, the Coronavirus Pandemic threatened to cancel the program, since gatherings were prohibited.
"We heard across the board that the transition from in-person to online schools was leading to a bit of online fatigue," says Ian Gordon, the United Way of San Diego County Senior VP and Chief Impact Officer.
Rather than more Zoom-based readings or online classes, the United Way of San Diego County decided to base the program out of each family's home.
They gave out 1500 books and more than 400 activity kits to keep the kids engaged over the summer. They also encouraged parents and siblings to read with the kids.
"It was different in many ways," says Gordon. "But it absolutely was successful."
According to the United Way of San Diego County, 93% of the families in the program continued reading throughout the summer. At the end, 85% of the kids said they enjoyed reading, compared with 55% at the beginning of the summer.
Parents also said they felt more confident and comfortable reading with their children.
"It was really nice," says Emily Lira. Her son Brian and daughter Emily took part in the program.
"It gave me more time to set apart from my schedule to read a book with the kids," she says.
The United Way of San Diego County also gave the families face masks and hand sanitizer to help with safety during the summer. They also gave out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids adjust to school in the fall.
The United Way of San Diego County partnered with City Heights Community Development Corporation, Karen Organization of San Diego, Words Alive, San Diego Council on Literacy, City Heights Weingart Library, Fleet Science Center, Traveling Stories, International Rescue Committee Small Business Development Center, RevCult, Target, UWSD’s Women United, and Count Me 2020 to provide all of the books and materials to the families, free of charge.