Bryanna Cuevas has read her way out of her own home.
Looking for a wider selection of titles, Cuevas, who's going into third grade at Meadow View School, regularly attends the Bellevue District's twice-weekly library program. About 50 kids from the district's four elementary schools spend two hours reading alone or with a volunteer, taking comprehension tests and playing math games in the computer lab.
"I don't have a lot," Bryanna said of her book collection at home. "I just have 20 or something and some are only level one and if I come here, they have third-grade stuff and you can win prizes."
The summer reading program is a truncated version of a program that had kept two district libraries open four days a week, but was eliminated under budget pressure two years ago.
A $4,000 grant from Rotary Club of Santa Rosa and a matching amount from district coffers reinstated the program this summer.
"It's absolutely critical," Bellevue Superintendent Tony Roehrick said. "It gives kids the opportunity to come in twice a week, check out a book, read at home, have guided instruction."
About 10 volunteers from AmeriCorps, Schools of Hope and regulars from the school year read with students or smooth over a missed word.
That assistance helps, said Christian Jimenez, a 7-year-old who is heading into second grade at Meadow View.
"Because it's hard sometimes," he said, after finishing a book from the series about Clifford, a big red dog.
In the Bellevue District, where 74 percent of students last year were English-language learners and 92 percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, access to a variety of books and personalized attention in the summer months can be crucial, educators said.
"Low-income children are especially prone to reading loss in the summer," said Kate Shatzkin, spokeswoman for the nonprofit National Summer Learning Association based in Baltimore.
"Middle-income families tend to surround their kids with books," she said.
Program coordinator and district reading specialist Peggy Stark said a typical Tuesday or Thursday afternoon will see about 50 kids packed into the Bellevue library.
"We hope it will translate into higher reading levels," she said.
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