Campion reads

State Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington

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State Sen. Brian Campion is launching a free summer reading initiative for all Bennington County and Wilmington students who graduated the first grade this year.

The pilot program, known as “Bennington County Reads,” involves partnerships with the Bennington Bookshop in Bennington, Northshire Bookstore in Manchester and Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington.

A coupon for a free book for any first-grade graduate will be printed in this Friday’s Bennington Banner and this week’s Manchester Journal. Coupons will also be available at the three bookstores.

Parents, friends and families of the students are encouraged to visit the independent bookstores any time from June 18 until Aug. 1 to select a book. The coupon is valid for up to $20.

It will be “fun for kids to go into a local bookstore, navigate that process and find something they’re excited about,” said Campion, who is personally funding the initiative for its inaugural year.

The Bennington district senator is chairing the Vermont Senate Education Committee for the 2021-22 biennium and said the committee took steps to address student literacy deficits during the legislative session that ended in May.

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A bill passed by the General Assembly and signed last month by Gov. Phil Scott, S.114, provided support for teachers and supervisory unions related to the teaching of literacy and established a council to advise state officials on improving and sustaining literacy outcomes for students.

Campion said statistics indicate that if students are not reading at grade level by the time they reach third grade, it can be difficult to catch up.

While acknowledging the importance of assigned reading, Campion said that it’s also important for young readers to find things they personally want to read.

The senator said he hopes to expand the program in future years, perhaps extending it to additional grades.

“Encouraging kids to read at a young age sets them up for success now and throughout life,” Campion said. “We hope this program sparks a life-long love of books, reading and ideas. And partnering with our wonderful local book stores gives the rest of us all a chance to pick up a great summer read.”

Luke Nathan can be reached at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.