February has already brought two innovations to DC education, with particular benefits for residents East of the River and in other disadvantaged local communities. First, the DC City Council has teamed up with DC Public Libraries for an exciting new program, called Books from Birth, which provides DC kids with a free book each month from birth until they turn five. The goal is to get children reading as early and often as possible in order to close the "achievement gap" that many disadvantaged children face when starting school. Parents or caregivers can register their children here; books are mailed monthly and the kids can keep the books (and read them as often as they want). Second, and in another effort to address the achievement gap—as well as the "summer learning loss" that many kids experience over summer vacation—DC will implement an extended school year for ten schools starting this fall. The Post reports that the ten elementary and middle schools, nine of which are in Wards 7 and 8, will have 20 extra days added to their school years. The goal is to replace a summer-break model with a year-round model. On extra added days, kids will have opportunities for extra learning both in core subjects and in "specials" such as arts, languages, and physical education. Mayor Bowser praised the initiative, pointing out that by the time the students reach eighth grade, they will have received an extra year's worth of instruction. DC officials hope that the added learning time will help level the playing field, giving children in disadvantaged neighborhoods more opportunities to learn and thrive.
A heartwarming, summer-reading true story about free books being put into the hands and homes of children in Anacostia. Book vending machines in three locations East of the River are providing kids with their choice of books to enjoy over the break, with the goal of handing out 100,000 books by summer's end.