The Anna Maria Oyster Bars’ Dive into Reading program aims to improve children’s reading levels by combating “Summer Slide.”

Dive into Reading started in the Summer of 2017 when the Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Ellenton invited rising third-graders from two local Title I elementary schools to enjoy a hot breakfast and practice reading with a mentor. Many mentors are guests from our restaurants: retired teachers, grandparents, high schoolers, even our restaurant team members!

In partnership with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading, the program has grown significantly since its inception, receiving an outpouring of community support and winning recognition and awards from the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, School District of Manatee County, and Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

In just its first year, Dive into Reading helped students beat the “Summer Slide” and showed an increase in reading proficiency when they returned to school. In 2020, the program was offered virtually via Zoom, with 75% of the participating children showing no reading loss when they returned to school.

This year, Dive into Reading aims to mentor even more children and continue to make a positive impact on their reading skills.

Join us for this special experience and help us fight “Summer Slide” together.


Over the years, Dive Into Reading has been honored to receive several awards for our work.

In 2018, we were shocked and grateful to be named the recipient of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation‘s Restaurant Neighbor Award, presented in Washington, DC. This award and accompanying grant allowed us to expand the program significantly and serve more students.

Dive Into Reading has also received these following recognitions:

  • Leadership Florida Impact Award, which honors a business or nonprofit organization that has created a project or body of work with the potential to transform its region and beyond.
  • Barry Jones Business Partner Empowerment Award from the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and the School District of Manatee County
  • Gratitude Award from the School District of Manatee County

We are grateful and humbled by all of these recognitions, because our true satisfaction comes from knowing that we are making a positive impact on our students.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the support of our community partners and volunteer mentors.

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Join us in making a difference in a child’s life!

Dive into Reading relies on community partners and volunteer mentors like you.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer reading mentor, please consider committing to a minimum of one morning a week from 8:45 am to 10:30 am for 4 weeks this June. (Dates may vary slightly depending on the school district’s summer school schedule.)

We would appreciate any additional weekly shifts you can offer (feel free to select more than one!).

Finally, enjoy this video created by award-winning journalist Ray Collins to learn more about Dive into Reading. Thank you for helping our community’s children!


If you’re unable to volunteer to help our kids, you can still make an impact.  

To support our Dive Into Reading initiative, you can donate to our fund at the Manatee Community Foundation. These tax-deductible donations go toward paying teacher-coordinators and providing backpacks to the children at the end of the program. We’re thankful to the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County for funding our books.

Click the button below to make a donation. Make sure to select the Dive Into Reading Fund.