John H. Jackson Community Center
Scholastic Book Fairs for the past eight years has teamed with the University of Central Florida to help at-risk children develop their reading skills and start their own book collections at home.
The Saturday Reading Camps, organized 18 years ago by the late Timothy Blair, who served as professor emeritus in the College of Education and Human Performance, are free reading clinics for Orlando’s Parramore community, one of Central Florida’s most critically underserved neighborhoods.
Key materials used by the children include books donated to the camps through Scholastic’s All for Books program and The Possible Fund.
The camps pair UCF student teachers with children for an hour of free reading lessons every Saturday. The children also receive free books to take home -- and that’s where Scholastic’s help comes in.
“Scholastic has been very generous, donating many books, as well as bookmarks and educational materials,” said Dana Samuel, who manages the UCF project. “Because of them, every 12 weeks we’re able to give every child a bag of books. Each kid leaves with seven to 10 books to build their own library at home.”
The students are excited to meet each week at the John H. Jackson Community Center, located about 20 miles from Scholastic's Lake Mary, Fla., office, where they work to improve their reading skills.
The camps evolved from the university’s “Foundation in Reading” undergraduate course and Dr. Timothy Blair’s conviction that taking education into the predominantly lower-income community would help the children who often are left behind in public schools. There’s even a workshop component for parents to give them tips for helping their children read at home.
“Most kids would want to be outside on a Saturday morning, but these kids know it’s important to learn to read to succeed,” said Samuel, who teaches at Cypress Ridge Elementary School in Clermont and is an adjunct reading instructor at UCF.
Each semester there are 50 to 75 children who attend the camps. Scholastic Book Fairs donates about 5,000 books a year, said Stephanie Williams, who manages the All for Books program, which supports this and other reading programs. The donation is part of Scholastic’s long history of social responsibility to give back to the community and help children discover the benefits of becoming a lifelong reader, she said.
It is this generosity that Samuel said she and the children are thankful for.
“It gives the children access to books that they wouldn’t ordinarily have and helps them build their home libraries,” she said. “We’re very appreciative of Scholastic’s donations and their support of the Saturday Reading Camps.”