BookFest aims to promote summer reading for local students

Students selecting books at BookFest 2023

A community-wide book gifting program provided thousands of K-2 students with new books as they head into summer, according to United Way officials.

The organization said that, as of June 9, more than 2,700 students in kindergarten and up to second grade have brand new books to read this summer thanks to the United Way and Connected Lane County’s BookFest program. The program was established six years ago by the two organizations to promote reading during the summer months for students, United Way officials said.

“The joy and excitement found within the stories of a book can have a profound impact on improving reading levels,” said Lizzie Brown, Connected Lane County’s program manager. “When children are genuinely thrilled about a book they chose, their engagement soars and leads to greater reading proficiency. With BookFest, we work to harness the power of self-selection and cultivate a love for reading in young learners.”

Increased access to books is a crucial means of improving reading scores, officials at United Way said. Officials said that 60 percent of Lane County students aren’t reading proficiently by the third grade, and these students are four times less likely to graduate on time.

A total of 2,748 students at 19 schools participated in BookFest between May 25 and June 9 and got to choose five brand new books to take home, United Way officials said. United Way said that participating schools included those in Eugene School District 4J, Bethel, Springfield, South Lane, Oakridge, Lowell, and Mapleton school districts.

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