By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(June 7, 2018) Showell Elementary School students were among the thousands of Worcester County children on Monday to receive bright orange McGuffey Bookworm Club backpacks filled with books for summer reading.
Now in its 13th year, McGuffey is a countywide program of the Worcester County Commission for Women and Friends of the Worcester County Commission for Women, and covers all Worcester County elementary schools, including Seaside Christian Academy and Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic School. Roughly 8,000 books are distributed to 2,000 students each year.
On Monday, Elizabeth Davidson’s third-grade students were first to line up at Showell.
“I think the kids really look forward to it and it sets them up for success,” Davidson said. “They might not have books at home, so having these books to start them off and kickoff summer is just a nice opportunity.”
The program is well timed, because the Showell Elementary school year concludes with a reading celebration to stimulate excitement for summer reading, Davidson said.
“This just reinforces that, getting a chance to have these books,” she said.
Davidson also underscored the importance of reading during time away from school.
“Students who don’t keep at it during the summertime can lose months of learning that they’ve gained in the classroom during the regular school year. Just to continue to read over the summer will set them up for success in fourth grade and prevent the summer slide,” she said.
Showell Media Specialist Kate McCabe sees the benefit of McGuffey both as a teacher and a parent.
“When my children come home, they keep that book bag with them all year. Throughout the summer they’re filling it with other things, but they get to keep those books,” she said. “As a teacher in school, to see children go home with a book they get to keep, it’s just another way to support reading … and that means a lot.”
McCabe also recognized the importance of fighting the summer learning drop-off.
“Reading is important every day,” she said. “This is just one moment that we’re highlighting it and [the students] are making a pledge to promise to keep reading, and that’s going to help them succeed in every part of their life.”
Copy Central owner Linda Dearing, who oversees the program, said it was started because the Commission for Women was looking for a worthwhile project to sponsor. The program was named after the McGuffey Readers series of textbooks widely used in American schools during the 19th and 20th centuries.
“There was a need for children to have books, especially on the lower end of the county, to help maintain their reading level throughout the summer,” Dearing said.
She said students look forward to receiving their books and backpacks each year.
“They absolutely love it,” she said. “If it can excite them enough to be interested in books and make them want to get more at the library over the summer when they’re not in school, then that’s our objective – just to get them enthused enough to want to keep reading.”
Generally, the program distributes books to first, second and third graders. This year kindergarten students were also included.
“The economy has turned around a little bit and we’ve gotten some more funding, so we added kindergarten,” Dearing said. “Showell has 117 students alone and I know there’s probably about 125 at Ocean City Elementary … I want to say maybe 500 kindergarten students [in Worcester County received books] this morning.”
The program is coordinated with the school system and requires dozens of volunteers at each school to hand out backpacks and help swear children into the McGuffey Bookworm Club. Also assisting are women at the Worcester County Jail, who each year stuff the backpacks with books, bookmarks, and informational letters for parents.
For volunteers, the reward is “just the pleasure of seeing these children and their happy faces,” Dearing said.
“We have children who are in high school now that got these bags and books. That’s how many years we’ve been doing it,” she said.
The nonprofit endeavor is made possible by donations, which Dearing said in the past have included major sponsors like Verizon and Choptank Electric Cooperative, as well as area nonprofits like Kiwanis.
“Any nonprofit group or business that wants to sponsor a classroom or just any individual that would like to sponsor a student, they can contact me or anybody that they know on the commission. And it is tax deductible,” she said.
To donate to the McGuffey Bookworm Club, contact Dearing at Copy Central on 11065 Cathell Road in Ocean Pines, call 410-208-0641, or visit www.copycentralmd.com.
Checks can be mailed to the Friends of the Worcester County Commission for Women at P.O. Box 1712, Berlin, Maryland, 21811.
For more information on the importance of summer learning programs, visit www.summerlearning.org.