This summer, 88 Cumberland County students are enjoying an exciting summer camp adventure of games, trips and crafts.

The Read to Be Ready summer camps, now in their fourth year, help rising first-, second- and third-grade students build literacy skills and find the joy in reading. But the program is in jeopardy after funding was not included in the state’s $38.6 billion budget.

The state has depended on federal grants to fund the tuition-free, month-long literacy summer camps for the past several years. But after announcing $8.9 million to support camps at 218 public schools, they learned the grant from the U.S. Department of Human Services had to be used for child-care programs, not educational summer programs.

We thank Gov. Bill Lee for finding the funding to continue the camps this summer. Almost 9,000 Tennessee students will benefit from activities that use high-interest books, fun literacy experiences and engaging field trips to spark their love of reading and help them retain and build important literacy skills for the coming school year.

But like many good programs that start with grant funding, we must find a way to continue this effective initiative in coming years. 

Tennessee’s focus on literacy over the past several years has earned some gains, which is important because students who can’t read well will struggle throughout their academic career. Not only will their schoolwork suffer, but struggling to read can be incredibly frustrating for young students. 

The camps are doing what they’re designed to do. Students last year saw statistically significant increases in reading comprehension, accuracy and motivation. 

They’re learning to love reading.

We call on our state leaders to ensure funding continues for this valuable, important program.