Springfield Public Schools giving students free books this summer

At least 3,600 Springfield kindergarten and first-grade students will receive a surprise this week: their very own bag of books.

Plus, up to 800 children entering kindergarten this fall will receive a school readiness kit, with books, this summer.

Superintendent Grenita Lathan, an avid reader, championed the giveaway in an effort to ensure each young learner had books of his or her own to read at home during the long summer break.

“I still believe students need…actual physical books,” Lathan said.

The school board agreed. In late April, it approved the district’s plan to pay $146,837 to Scholastic Education for the literacy bags and kits.

“Students will actually go home with books,” Lathan said. Next year, the district plans to expand the giveaway to more grade levels.

Lathan also announced that beloved book character Clifford the Big Red Dog will visit the district’s summer program, Explore. He will help encourage students to read, show up to class regularly and show good citizenship.

From left, Mar'ek Fuller, Ashdon Jasper, and Logan Draves, first grade students at Westport Elementary, look at books that were handed out by Springfield Superintendent Grenita Lathan on Wednesday.

Ben Hackenwerth, executive director of learning supports and innovation, said Lathan is passionate about children having access to books.

“It’s also an equity thing, just ensuring that every child regardless of their socioeconomic status has books in their hands,” Hackenwerth said.

This week, Lathan, Hackenwerth and others visited elementary schools to distribute the bags.

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