Sacramento Public Library

Partner of the Month: LifeSTEPS

Beth Southorn and Jim Phelps of LifeSTEPS talk about how the non-profit pioneered a hands-on approach to Summer Reading.
Last summer, LifeSTEPS wanted to explore new ways to get children to read. The Sacramento-based non-profit—the single largest provider of social services to the residents of affordable housing communities in California—was already running dozens of summer programs for children.
Working with the North Natomas Library and the Friends of the North Natomas Library, they made summer reading a shared, on-site activity. LifeSTEPS took about 90 area children signed up for their summer program, helped them all get library cards and sign up for Summer Reading with Sacramento Public Library, then had them read for 20 minutes every day. At the end of the summer, the children who completed the Summer Reading program got to have a pizza party.
“The average completion rates for kids in the Summer Reading program across the system was about 53 percent,” said Beth Southorn, executive director of LifeSTEPS. “Ours was 76 percent.”
This summer, LifeSTEPS has expanded the approach to 545 kids in more than around the state—“literally from the Mexican border to Susanville,” as LifeSTEPS development director Jim Phelps put it.
This includes 74 children in Sacramento County alone. In each area, LifeSTEPS has helped children signup for their local library’s Summer Reading program, and then has helped guide them along. The next step, Southorn said, is adding the reading every day practice to their afterschool programs, which serve thousands of children statewide.
“It’s very cool,” Southorn said. “There are things we can do together that aren’t a whole lot of money that will have a lot of social impact. Everybody wins.”

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