The Allen County Public Library's summer learning program has received a $1.02 million grant from the Foellinger Foundation.
The grant will assist the program in encouraging children to read during summer break. Offered at all library branches, the program has grown to serve more than 10,000 youth each summer, a foundation news release says.
One of the foundation's Signature Grants, the grant will fund three years of activities from 2021 to 2023. Since 1994, the Foellinger Foundation has provided $5.7 million to the program, counting the most recent grant.
Because of the COVID-19 epidemic this year, said Cheryl Taylor, foundation executive director, the library's summer program has adopted a virtual format, with curbside service established to deliver books and other materials for student and family activities.
In coming years, the library plans to expand program offerings to those who participate in the free summer lunch program. Students will be encouraged to explore reading at the library branch nearest to their home.
Taylor said much of the grant money goes to buy books that serve as prizes and incentives for student readers.
Some of the rest traditionally goes to pay for summer jobs for about 40 older students who help out with the program at various locations around the county.
But this year, Taylor said, that program had to be curbed because library staffers felt they could not restructure it to be safe in light of the pandemic. The money that would have been spent this year is being rolled into the new grant, Taylor said.
The foundation has awarded grants to the library program 12 times, she said.
“When children aren't in school, a large amount of research tells you they're not focusing on reading skills every day. There's a lot of research that says children fall back a little from where they were in school,” Taylor explained, noting that educators call the process the “summer slide.” But there's also research showing that an intensive quality program can prevent some of that slide from happening and may improve skills, she said, adding: “If skills stay strong, that is a great advantage.”