Summer Youth Reading Programs Supported Locally by UGI
Looking for a summer destination that is fun, free and will improve your child’s performance in school next year? Believe it or not, your energy company may hold the answer. UGI Utilities is committed to making summer learning affordable, accessible and effective, beginning with your local library.
“We want to encourage students to continue to read throughout the summer,” says Joseph Swope, Manager of Media Relations and Special Projects for UGI. “The loss of reading and comprehension skills over summer vacation – typically referred to as summer slide – can mean that 10 to 20 percent of the school year is spent getting students back to their literacy level of the previous year.”
Swope is not exaggerating. Numerous studies point to the decline in reading, math and other basic skills during the summer, increasing exponentially through the years for at-risk students in lower economic brackets, as they often do not have access to materials provided through schools during the academic year. Libraries can fill that gap and provide access to books for all students, regardless of background.
We believe they (summer reading programs) are an important bridge to maintain and even enhance children’s reading skills in the summer
UGI’s commitment to children’s literacy began in 1991, in partnership with Reading is Fundamental (RIF), providing free books to first-grade students throughout the school year. What started with the idea of a free book, has expanded to 1.5 million books in the hands of approximately 500,000 students. When considering the age of the program, it is quite possible that this year’s first-grade students may have parents who benefitted from this 28-year initiative!
With the increasing awareness of the importance of literacy to student success and the dawn of Pennsylvania’s Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) in 2001, UGI expanded their literacy initiatives to include local libraries and schools, specifically through summer reading programs.
“We believe they (summer reading programs) are an important bridge to maintain and even enhance children’s reading skills in the summer,” said Swope.
Libraries develop their own programs to determine how best to use UGI funds, said Swope and often members of the UGI Community Relations team participate in the fun. Swope praised the efforts of library staff in the communities supported by UGI, saying many libraries expand the reach of programs by including church and civic organizations in their programs to bring maximum community benefit from summer reading programs. Last summer libraries in Lancaster and Reading benefitted from UGI’s outreach, as well as multiple libraries within the Blair, Cumberland and Dauphin counties. The West Pittston Library, which receives support from UGI, gives young children the opportunity to participate in a summer arts enrichment program and earn rewards for reading during the summer. Sizzle! Summer Camp reading enrichment program, sponsored by ProJect of Easton and the Foundation for Easton Schools and STEAM-R (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, and Reading) Program in the East Stroudsburg Area School District, funded through the Pocono Alliance also benefitted from UGI literacy support.
- Read 20 minutes a day
- Cook using new, fun recipes
- Learn a summer hobby
- Listen to audiobooks
- Engage in meaningful conversation
And nowhere is fun in learning more apparent than in the Summer Youth Enrichment Program run by the Salvation Army in Harrisburg Capital City Region. UGI is a proud corporate sponsor of this nine-week full-day program where students in pre-K through grade 8 participate in a myriad of activities designed to promote life skills and increase academic engagement.
“Our motto is; Learning disguised as fun.” says Kathy Anderson-Martin, Director of Resource Development for the Salvation Army in Harrisburg Capital City Region. “UGI is one of our best corporate sponsors.”
Anderson-Martin says UGI works with both the staff and students attending camps year-round but play a special role in the career component of the summer camp, sponsoring a Career Exploration Day on June 24, complete with a career scavenger hunt and energy education.
“Many students do not know where their energy comes from, nor how many jobs are involved in bringing that energy to them,” says Anderson-Martin. UGI sends staff to engage the students in science and reading projects related to energy and design a fresh, new program each year, as many participants return yearly. The program serves 130 students in the greater Harrisburg area and is funded through a combination of low-cost tuition and grants from UGI and other corporate sponsors.
“People say this is the best summer program they have ever seen,” says Anderson-Martin. “We are teaching STEM skills and UGI and other companies like them will need employees with those skills.”
UGI works with organizations sponsoring female-focused STEM summer camp programs in the hopes of increasing talented female representation in these careers. Programs include: Women Empowered by Science (WEBS) at Wilkes University; Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) sponsored through The Philanthropic Fund at the Pennsylvania State University, and SMART (Science and Math Applications in Real-World Technologies) Camp sponsored through the Pennsylvania College of Technology Foundation.
Last year several YMCA locations offered STEM programs that received funding assistance from UGI, including the Summer STEM program at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, the Summer Environmental Education program at Wilkes-Barre and the Summer Scholars program of Greater Scranton. Other STEM programs included Stevens STEM camps at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, the Summer STEM Camp at Lancaster Science Factory, the Lego Robotics Camp at Luzerne County Community College Foundation and the summer engineering camp at the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem.
“Education has been a core component of our mission,” says Swope. “UGI is not going to pick up and move anywhere. We are part of the fabric of the community and the success of every one of these students will help ensure the continued vitality of this region in the future.”