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ITAWAMBA, Miss. (Itawamba County Times) — Keeping young minds active during the summer months is more important to their educations than most people realize.

Apparently, there’s a thing called the “summer slide.” That’s when school-aged kids, suddenly released from the rigors of the classroom, cease reading for the summer months. By the time school starts up again, their reading abilities have suffered significant setbacks. The solution? Get kids to read during the summer months. That’s what the upcoming Literacy on the Lawn event is all about.

Set for Saturday, May 3, on the Itawamba Career and Technical Center campus, this inaugural event will help show kids that reading isn’t just for the classroom, and it doesn’t have to be a chore. It can even be fun. This free event will be open to children in grades kindergarten through second and will encourage good reading habits through a variety of fun activities.

At the heart of the event will be four reading tents set up on the school’s side lawn. Inside of each, a volunteer reader — most likely a current or retired teacher — will deliver animated readings of popular kids books. The event will also feature a bouncy castle, face painting, a craft table where kids can make their own bookmarks and a reading fair.

Each child who registers for the event will also be given two tickets: The first gets them a free hot dog and drink, the other a gift bag featuring a free book (so the kids will take their newfound love of reading home with them) and other goodies.

Carrie Grubbs, head of the ICTC’s teacher academy program and Literacy on the Lawn’s organizer, is really hoping this event serves as a jumping off point for a lifelong love of reading for some of their young attendees, which in turn will lead to a stronger performance in academics.

“One of the biggest problems (educators) face these days is kids who are unable to read and comprehend what they’ve read,” Grubbs said.

Reading is a skill, and as is the case with any skill, ability grows with practice. Loving to read, she said, is so important to academic growth. Reading comprehension is the foundation of all learning. Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids who simply don’t enjoy reading at all, or who haven’t ever really taken time to do any reading outside the classroom setting and don’t realize it can be enjoyable.

“There are kids out there who don’t have any books at home,” she said. “We want to do our small part in helping the fight to improve literacy levels in our area by showing kids that reading can be fun.”

If things go well, Grubbs hopes to upgrade this first-time event to annual status.

“I think it will be a good event,” Grubbs said, adding, “My little girl’s in kindergarten and she’s so excited she can’t stand it.”

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