A loud siren rings and Club members rush to bookshelves and select their favorite book. This newfound excitement for reading will be the scene across Clubs this summer thanks to the D.E.A.R. Challenge, which invites Club members to read for one hour every day, Monday through Friday.
D.E.A.R., which stands for Drop Everything and Read, is not just a cool acronym. It is an extensive and well-thought-out program that Club staff expect to be a game-changer for combating summer learning loss. The program functions as an essential tool for literacy development, helping staff keep track of and understand Club members’ reading comprehension levels.
The idea for D.E.A.R. started when Erica Gbekle, a member of Grant Thornton’s African American and Allies Business Resource Group (AABRG), suggested the group support a summer book drive. Fellow AABRG member Erika McCormick reflected on the impact summer reading programs had on her as a kid and suggested reaching out to BGCMB.
During the course of BGCMB’s eight-week summer program, Grant Thornton employees across the DC and Baltimore region will purchase books from an Amazon wish list for young readers at five Clubs.
“Key things that we hope to accomplish with D.E.A.R. are 1) provide an educational activity for students to do during the summer 2) maintain and advance students’ reading skills during their summer break and 3) introduce students to new books,” said Gbekle.
Club members read and write summaries on a book of their choice. Staff members collect the summaries to analyze a child’s ability to process text and recognize the main idea. Kids won’t be evaluated by how fast they read. Instead, Club staff will focus on their ability to soak in and explain the premise of what they just read. The goal is to see which kids need additional support and then work with said kids individually, teaching them how to process and break down information effectively.
“Our goal is to translate [this information] into school time so we know, this is where you are at during the summer, and then check back in during the fall and see if there has been any growth,” explained Manager of Education Kaitlin Keefer. “The whole goal is to reduce that learning loss that many kids get during the summer, especially after this year.”
According to a 2020 article from the American Educational Research Association which followed children from grades one to six, 52 percent of children experienced summer learning loss across five consecutive summers.
Parents and staff members are not the only ones excited about this new program. Club members are excited about the massive variety of books available and the chance to explore their passions and think about their future careers.
Johnea T. chose a book titled Black History for Beginners. Johnea, whose dream is to become a historian, plans to use the D.E.A.R. program to sharpen her knowledge of all things history. “I want to be a historian. I want to be able to explain what happened and how things started,” said Johnea.
If you’d like to inspire more kids like Johnea, shop for books on Grant Thornton's Amazon wish list through August 20.