Kids Read Now celebrates 10 years

By Sam Wildow

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TROY — Kids Read Now, a non-profit literacy program located in Troy, celebrated 10 years of combating and even reversing effects of the summer reading slide by providing kids locally and across the country with free books to read over summer.

The goal of Kids Read Now is to keep students engaged and reading throughout the summer months, citing how income and poverty can play a factor in children’s literacy development.

“The effects of the summer slide can potentially be devastating for at-risk and struggling readers,” said Barb Lurie, who co-founded Kids Read Now with her husband, Leib Lurie, who is the CEO of Kids Read Now. Barb Lurie, who is also a former educator, also sits on the Kids Read Now board. “Most low-income kids are a year behind in reading by the time they enter fourth grade. Studies have shown that the summer slide was the culprit for two-thirds of the reading gap between income levels.”

Leib and Barb Lurie found the most affordable and scalable solution was simply to gift books to kids, Barb Lurie said.

Along with celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Wednesday, Kids Read Now also celebrated sending out its 3 millionth book to one of their participants. The non-profit, in conjunction with with the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce, also held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new, larger facility on Marybill Drive in Troy.

The non-profit was in need of that extra space as it continues to grow. Leib Lurie said that “100,000 kids will receive a million books this year.”

Kids Read Now’s team of educators select popular and loved books that kids are most likely to want to read, and that team creates a Wish List catalog of over 130 titles from which kids can choose. By partnering with Penguin Random House and other top publishers, Kids Read Now is able to offer the best books for PreK-5 kids.

Also in attendance at Wednesday’s celebration was Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton and the Democratic nominee in the 2022 Ohio gubernatorial election.

Whaley spoke about how she met Leib and Barb Lurie in 2013 when she was first running to be the mayor of Dayton. Leib Lurie also noted Whaley’s preschool initiative in Dayton, which was approved by Dayton voters in 2016 to provide preschool to all Dayton families.

“They educated me on the power of reading in the summer and what a difference we can make,” Whaley said. “And as we work to pass high-quality universal preschool for every four-year-old, having that to be a key part.” Whaley added the work of Kids Read Now was particularly important during the COVID pandemic to give “opportunities for kids to read all through the year.”

Also present during Wednesday’s event were Miami County commissioners Wade Westfall and Greg Simmons, along with Troy Mayor Robin Oda.

“It has been a fantastic program impacting kids,” Oda said. “We’re happy to have them here in Troy, and just to see the growth they have experienced over 10 years is phenomenal.”

Kids Read Now also awarded a $500 grant to Brooke Long, a graduate of Vandalia-Butler High School who plans to attend Sinclair. Long was one of the first participants in the Kids Read Now summer reading program.

“In my early elementary years, reading was a struggle for me,” Long said. “I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my third grade year at Demmitt Elementary, the same year that Kids Read Now partnered with my school. The summer reading program began to instill my love of reading, and today, I stand before you as a proud middle school and high school honor student and graduate of Vandalia-Butler High School.” She added that she owed her love of reading to the Kids Read Now program.

Attendees also heard from school officials from Demmitt Elementary School, which is in the Vandalia-Butler City School District. Principal Garry Martin spoke about their participation in the program, saying the books helped over the summer and, most recently, during the pandemic to keep students engaged and improve reading scores.

Wednesday’s event was sponsored by Brixey & Meyer.

For more information about Kids Read Now, visit kidsreadnow.org.