Grand Valley State University (GVSU) launched its summer literacy program, Storytime in the Park (formerly Storytime in the Heights) in June of 2010, providing children on the southeast side of Grand Rapids free books, ice cream cones, and quality reading time with family and Storytime volunteers each Tuesday evening for 13 weeks in the summertime in Garfield Park.
In 2016, the Steelcase Foundation awarded $100,000 over three years to expand programming and move the weekly gathering to Garfield Park. The new location helped Storytime to reach students and families at nearby Brookside, Dickenson, and Burton Elementary/Middle Schools, while remaining close to its Alger participants, and provided much needed indoor shelter to continue operations during inclement weather. The expansion required additional high-quality age-appropriate literature, ensuring programming matched young visitors with books that excited their reading appetites and met them at their current literacy level.
Last summer, Storytime served 1,058 families distributing 9,528 books and 12,976 ice cream cones, while impacting 2,543 children, about 40 percent of whom were from diverse backgrounds. Through its efforts, GVSU reported 88 percent of children who participated in Storytime spent more time reading during the summer, and 91 percent of families reported receiving new books made their children want to read more. We’re hopeful that Storytime’s efforts will encourage children from the Garfield Park neighborhood to continue reading after the summer programming, and become lifelong readers.