October 1, 2021

Addison, a young resident of Overlook Terrace Apartments in Fredericksburg, Virginia, had a strong opinion about her favorite book this summer. Her answer? “Pigs Can’t Fly” because, she said, “the book was about a pig who tried to be other animals he wasn’t.”

She was one of several youth at the apartment community who finished this summer with a healthy amount of reading thanks to the CHP Reads! Summer Reading Program. Community Housing Partners (CHP), a nonprofit provider of affordable and sustainable housing throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, organized the program for the third year in a row and reached twice as many communities in 2021 as it did the previous year.

“We are so excited to double the number of properties that offered CHP Reads! this year,” said Jasmine Carmon, CHP Resident Services Content Supervisor, who explained that the program helps students combat the “summer slide,” or loss of academic progression between school years.

CHP's employee teams donated books to CHP Reads! this year.

CHP’s staff teams donated books to CHP Reads! this year.

According to Carmon, the program reached 497 youth at 24 CHP apartment communities in Virginia and Florida this year. Staff and volunteers gave out 4,295 books, which was also a record total. This year, CHP’s Equity and Inclusion Team and Green Team also donated 350 books that touched on CHP’s nonprofit mission in some way. “We’ve been thrilled with the level of engagement this year and hope to expand the program even more next year,” Carmon said.

National research shows that children and teens who participate in summer reading programs perform better on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the following school year than those who did not participate. Most students lose about a month of academic learning every summer, a problem that has become even more challenging with modified school schedules and fewer opportunities for interaction during the pandemic.

A child picks out a book

A resident of Greenstone on 5th Apartments in Charlottesville, Virginia, picks out a book.

Morgan Hilton, Resident Services Coordinator at Meadowview Apartments in Pulaski, Virginia, helped to coordinate CHP Reads! for the first time this year and said it was one of the most rewarding experiences of her career. “I had a total of 45 children participate and passed out over 700 books,” Hilton said. “This summer, my favorite days of the week were the ones I got to pass out CHP Reads. Children would hear the wagon coming and run over to get their books and snacks. One time, two girls sat outside my office window and took turns reading their new books to me.”

Now in its third year, the CHP Reads! Summer Reading Program launched in 2019 with book fairs, lending libraries, and other reading programs. CHP Resident Services retooled the program for the past two summers to meet new safety standards in response to the pandemic. (Read more about the impact of CHP Reads! in 2020.)

A free little library at Maplewood Apartments

Staff at Maplewood Apartments in Martinsville, Virginia, installed a Little Free Library for residents.

The program continued to offer contactless delivery drop-off of books this summer. Enrolled youth received at least two books every week to read, enjoy, and keep and were offered postcards to give their feedback and have a chance to win a tablet and gift card. Addison, the resident from Overlook Terrace, submitted her postcard and was one of the winners.

“We are grateful for our donors and volunteers who helped make this program happen,” said Carmon, who reported that CHP received $15,458 in donations from individual donors and a $500 grant from NeighborWorks America for the program.  In addition, 51 volunteers gave a total of 137 hours to the program.

Even though the program has ended for 2021, CHP is continuing to encourage reading throughout the year. Four CHP apartment communities in Virginia—including Belleville Meadows Apartments in Suffolk, Maplewood Apartments in Martinsville, The Woods at Yorktown, and the Apartments at Kingsridge in Hopewell—have recently installed and stocked Little Free Libraries for residents. CHP is planning to install four more of these libraries in the coming months, in addition to bringing back CHP Reads! next year.