Students & Faculty Support Youth Literacy with PLEASE READ Project

FCRR bookbag donationsWhen the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to close their doors for face-to-face learning, faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) quickly responded to the needs of families and schools in Leon County. They wrote a grant proposal titled “PLEASE READ: Preventing LEarning Loss At Home in Summer with Extension READing Activities in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” One of the project’s goals was to create a 5-week intervention to keep students and families engaged in literacy activities to help decrease learning loss during the summer.

FSU School of Communication Science and Disorders (SCSD) faculty and doctoral students have been instrumental in the efforts of PLEASE READ.

Lakeisha Johnson with bookbag donations“It has been well documented that children who do not continue to read or engage in academic activities over the summer face learning losses, commonly known as the summer slide,” said Lakeisha Johnson, Assistant Professor and affiliated faculty at FCRR (pictured right, on the far right). Johnson spearheaded the selection of diverse children’s books and the development of aligned storybook guides that were used in the PLEASE READ project.

“Due to extended school closures leading into the summer break, the majority of children had not received typical face-to-face classroom instruction for almost five months,” she said. “The goal of the PLEASE READ project was to ensure the children most vulnerable for learning loss were equipped with low-tech, engaging activities that were centered around diverse children’s books and could be completed at home with families.”

FCRR bookbagsLeon County Schools (LCS) administrators helped FCRR to recruit families with rising first and second graders from Title I schools in LCS. Families received children’s books featuring diverse characters, aligned storybook guides, and literacy activities from FCRR’s Student Center Activities repository. Grants from and FL Grade Level Reading Campaign provided enough funds to recruit 600 families for the PLEASE READ study, as well as to recruit diverse families from around the country to create 50 demonstration videos of the Student Center Activities which can be found on FCRR’s YouTube channel. 215 families were recruited for the PLEASE READ intervention and received backpacks filled with school supplies as a thank you for their participation, and the remaining 385 backpacks among FCRR’s partner Title I schools for administrators to distribute to any students in need.

SCSD doctoral students, Keisey Fumero and Rebecca Summy, assisted in the project and distribution of backpacks as well.

“I loved to be a part of this project,” Fumero said. “There is so much freedom and joy to be gained from books and learning, so I am glad we were able to empower families to bond and learn with their children through literacy.”

FCRR Bookbag Donations Kelly FarquharsonAssociate Professor Kelly Farquharson (pictured on the right) is an affiliated faculty member at FCRR and also participated in the bookbag donation part of PLEASE READ project. She appreciates how FCRR and Johnson’s efforts have helped children in Tallahassee start this precarious school year with supplies in hand.

“This kind of community-based effort is necessary for our neighbors to view FSU and FCRR as rich, trust-worthy, and helpful resources,” Farquharson said. “Our research aims to help children achieve reading success, but these boots-on-the-ground activities are crucial to successful partnerships.”

For more information about PLEASE READ, visit the FCRR website here.