September 25, 2020

A summer reading program organized by Community Housing Partners (CHP), a nonprofit provider of affordable and sustainable housing throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, has connected more than 400 children and teens in Virginia and Florida with books, snacks, and reading opportunities.

Designed to stave off the “summer slide,” or loss of academic progression between school years, the CHP Reads! Summer Reading Program has been especially important this year for youth and their families juggling modified schedules, new learning formats, and in some cases, a return to the classroom after a longer-than-usual summer break. 

CHP Reads participant at Yorktown Square

A CHP Reads! participant in Yorktown Square Apartments in Yorktown, Virginia, enjoys her weekly book delivery.

“Over the summer, students had fewer opportunities to engage with their peers and individuals outside their family due to COVID-19,” said Tiffany Slusher, Director of Programs for CHP Resident Services. “National research shows that youth who participate in summer reading programs like ours have better performance on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those who did not participate. The average student loses about a month of academic learning every summer.”

This year, CHP Resident Services reached 437 children and teens at 14 CHP apartment communities in Virginia and Florida. Of these, 189 youth signed up for regular book drop-offs over a six-week period and another 248 participated in one-time literacy events.

“CHP staff and volunteers gave out 3,844 books through CHP Reads! in 2020,” Slusher added. “That’s about 1,400 more books than last year. We are thrilled to have this level of engagement despite the challenges that came with the pandemic.”

Now in its second year, the CHP Reads! Summer Reading Program launched in 2019 with book fairs, lending libraries, and other reading programs. CHP Resident Services retooled this year’s program to meet new safety standards in response to COVID-19. (Read more about how CHP passed out over 2,400 books last year and relaunched this year’s program.)

Starting in July, the revamped program offered contactless delivery drop-off of books, at-home literacy activities, and a community reading chain challenge. Enrolled youth received at least two books every week to read, enjoy, and keep.

“We are grateful for our donors and volunteers who helped make this program happen,” said Slusher, who reported that 2,875 books were donated this year and 29 volunteers gave 160 hours to the program. In addition, CHP received a $1,000 donation from First Book—a nonprofit which provides books, learning materials, and other essentials for children in need—and KPMG through the KPMG Family for Literacy Program supporting children from low-income families.

Although CHP Reads! has come to a close for 2020, families with youth at CHP apartment communities can follow CHP Connects on Facebook to find additional resources and support from CHP Resident Services.

The participating CHP Reads! properties were Ansell Gardens Apartments in Portsmouth, Virginia; Cross Creek Apartments in Portsmouth, Virginia; Friendship Village Apartments in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Greenstone on 5th Apartments in Charlottesville, Virginia; Horizon House and Sunset Apartments in Gainesville, Florida; Laurel Woods Apartments in Pulaski, 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; The Woods in Yorktown, Virginia; and Yorktown Square and Rivermeade Apartments in Yorktown, Virginia.

CHP Reads at Friendship Village

Virginia Beach City Councilman Aaron Rouse (green shirt) and his foundation, Rouse’s House, in collaboration with Lifehouse Virginia Beach, delivered free backpacks and books for kids at Friendship Village Apartments in Virginia Beach in July. All the backpacks were also filled with school supplies for the upcoming school year.