Dive Into Reading has successfully completed year three, and this year, in particular, was one for the books! We are so incredibly humbled & proud to share that AMOB has been honored with Leadership Florida’s 2019 Impact Award for Dive Into Reading. This award recognizes a business or nonprofit organization that has created a specific project, or body of work, whose impact is currently transforming the future of its region or beyond and has the potential to transform Florida as a whole. This recognition is very special to us…rendering even John Horne speechless…if you can believe it. Word from the annual meeting of Leadership Florida, where John and Amanda received this year’s Impact Award in front of 800+ members, was that it took John several tries to be able to accept the award because he was so choked up…
In June 2019, a total of 11 schools, 7 teacher coordinators and 354 mentors donated their time each week for the 365 student graduates of Dive Into Reading. The mentors served a total of 3,487 hours and the students read a total of 13,730 books. The program was offered at five area locations: Gecko’s SR-70, Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Ellenton and Landside, South Florida Museum, and Gecko’s Fruitville to serve all 11 Title I schools in the School District of Manatee County, and also included rising first graders along with rising second and third graders as part of Camp R.I.S.E. Camp R.I.S.E. is a summer school camp for struggling readers. Dive Into Reading expanded to Sarasota County in 2019 as well, thanks to a partnership with Gecko’s Grill & Pub and the Sarasota County School District.
Dive Into Reading first launched in the summer of 2017 at our Ellenton location, with rising third graders from nearby Title I schools invited to eat breakfast and practice reading with volunteer adult mentors. In our first year, we had 76 children and 58 mentors.
We have received a tremendous amount of community support, winning recognition and awards from the local organizations including the Bradenton Kiwanis Foundation Bert South Philanthropic Award, School District of Manatee County Gratitude Award, and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Barry Jones Business Partner Empowerment Award. Last spring, AMOB was the recipient of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s Restaurant Neighbor Award presented in Washington, D.C.
Dive Into Reading was initially launched in partnership with the School District of Manatee County, the library system and the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to find ways to support and improve reading standards in the community and beyond. Focusing on summer learning is a key solution area of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading because low-income children lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement over the summer, which slows their progress toward third-grade reading proficiency — a key indicator of future success in school and in life.
The idea for Dive Into Reading was sparked when John and Amanda Horne learned The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report that a student who is not reading proficiently by third grade is four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19. In Manatee County, more than 51 percent of students are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade, a disheartening statistic which a tremendous impact on shaping the future of our community.
Along with reading, the children are provided a hot breakfast each week, also learning table and dining manners like how to order from a menu or politely select items from a buffet. Students also learned how to greet strangers by shaking hands and making eye contact. At the end of the program, each child received a backpack filled with school supplies donated by generous community partners, Palmetto Elks Lodge, and the Hernando Historical Society.
“Trust me, the mentors get more than they give,” was a comment received from a volunteer this year. On each table at breakfast are Ice Breakers, questions on cards that help keep the conversation going while mentor and mentee eat breakfast. A mentor asked her child one of the prompts, “what’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?” The child’s answer: “what you are doing for me right now” is proof enough of Dive Into Reading’s impact and the difference just a few hours each week can make on our community.
We cannot thank our sponsors, community, Manatee and Sarasota County schools and teachers, and mentors enough. Without you, none of this would be possible. It takes an entire community joining together to show our children that we care and to give them the best start in life possible. We encourage our mentors to follow their mentees back to school when they start again in August and continue the mentoring process. Knowing that we have been a small part in moving the needle closer to 0% of third graders not being able to read at grade-level is great, but we still have a long way to go.
Interested in becoming a mentor next year? Click here to sign up for our Dive Into Reading email list to stay up-to-date!