EveryLibrary is proud to join a coalition of national, state, and local partner organizations to urge Congress to pass the "Summer Meals and Learning Act of 2019" (H.R. 3667 / S. 2070). We are joining the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) coalition because summer is a critical time for children from all walks of life, but especially those in low-income households with low food security and limited access to learning options.
Public libraries deliver effective and sustained summer reading and summer feeding programs all across the county. The Summer Meals and Learning Act would help close and fund an important gap in summertime supports by providing schools with grant funding to keep their libraries open and accessible for learning alongside their summer meals programs. It is an important opportunity to support at-risk and hard-to-reach students through school libraries, in collaboration with public library systems.
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The Summer Meals and Learning Act is modeled on the successful Oregon Summer Learning, Library, Lunch (SL3) program. This legislation will create a new Federal grant program that:
- Provide grants to state libraries to fund summer reading programs at schools that 1) have a summer lunch program and 2) where at least 50% of students read below grade level or are at risk of reading below grade levels;
- Enable state library programs to award sub-grants based on the proposed number of school lunch sites and the number of students that will be served under the summer early reading program;
- Be authorized at $5 million in funding over five years.
For many children, summer equals hunger. While many public libraries anchor Summer Nutrition Programs in the communities, across the country there is still a tremendous shortfall in summer meals supports. In 2017, Summer Nutrition Programs only reached one in seven children who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch during the 2016-2017 school year. This bill will help close that gap.
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Likewise, it is well known that low-income students are less likely to have access to community resources that keep them safe, healthy, and learning over the summer. Public libraries in every corner of America deliver high-quality, engaging summer learning and summer reading programs to children and their families. Despite the fact that summer has been identified as a major factor in the achievement gap in America’s schools, there is still no dedicated source of funding for summer learning. This bill is a step in that effort.
Good summer programs provide students with access to nutritious meals, which millions of children need. Enabling schools and public libraries to work together to address these needs and close these gaps needs this kind of targeted federal support. EveryLibrary is urging you to contact your members of Congress to help create this unique, important, and high-impact program. Please take the next step and make your voice heard in support of the Summer Meals and Learning Act of 2019 (H.R. 3667 and S. 2070) today.