September 9, 2019

As the summer winds to a close, youth at 15 apartment communities in Virginia and Florida have started the school year with a distinct advantage. That’s because Community Housing Partners (CHP) gave out hundreds of books and organized reading opportunities for youth through the CHP Reads! Summer Reading Program.

The program aimed to offset the “summer slide,” a term used to describe the academic regression experienced by students over the summer. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, the average student loses a month of academic-calendar learning every summer.

“We know from national research that children who participated in summer reading programs like ours scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those who did not participate,” said Tiffany Slusher, Director of Programs for CHP Resident Services. “Research has also found a link between socioeconomic status and the loss of reading skills experienced over the summer.”

At book fairs, volunteers distributed 1,391 books to 393 youth and 35 adults living at CHP properties. An additional 1,036 books were distributed to residents at nine CHP apartment communities throughout the summer.

Planning for the program began in the spring and continued throughout the summer. In April, CHP Resident Services collected books for the program at CHP’s offices in Christiansburg, Richmond, and Inverness. CHP also encouraged volunteer, civic, and faith-based organizations to sponsor book drives and accepted monetary donations so that it could purchase new books. (View a photo gallery from the book fairs, and watch a news clip of Slusher explaining the summer reading program.)

Youth at Lafayette Village Apartments paint a little free libraryIn May, CHP’s Energy Solutions Research and Training Center built three Little Free Libraries that were installed at CHP apartment communities. Youth at the properties painted the libraries to make them their own. In June, CHP Resident Services held monster-themed book fairs, where volunteers read “Mac the Snack Monster” by Joel Moeller and children could take home books of their choosing.

Participating youth created “reading chains” at their apartment community, where they created a paper link to add to a chain for every book finished this summer. In July, CHP held end-of-summer reading celebrations centered around the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.

“CHP! Reads was so successful that we hope to continue the program in future years and expand it to reach more kids,” said Slusher. She added that 85 volunteers contributed 239 hours of volunteer work to the program.

The resident services coordinators who implemented CHP Reads! at their apartment communities agreed. “The entire CHP Reads! is amazing. I love the positive impact it made on my kids,” wrote one of them. Another added, “I really enjoyed the book fair and thought it made the kick off to summer programs more enjoyable. I hope the next year we can have more events like this.”

The participating properties were Ansell Gardens Apartments in Portsmouth, Virginia; Belleville Meadows Apartments in Suffolk, Virginia; Cross Creek Apartments in Portsmouth, Virginia; Dolly Ann Apartments in Covington, Virginia; Friendship Village Apartments in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Greenstone on 5th Apartments in Charlottesville, Virginia; Horizon House and Sunset Apartments in Gainesville, Florida; Lafayette Apartments in Williamsburg, Virginia; Linden Green Apartments in Christiansburg, Virginia; Maplewood Apartments in Martinsville, Virginia; Meadowview Apartments in Pulaski, Virginia; Normandy Apartments in Jacksonville, Florida; Parkside Gardens Apartments in Ocala, Florida; Woodlawn Terrace Apartments in St. Augustine, Florida; and Yorktown Square and Rivermeade Apartments in Yorktown, Virginia.