Summer reading takes a huge drop with children, this is especially true of children from low-income households. To fight this, the United Way created the Readers in the Heights program.

Franklin Elementary School

This was our first time partnering with United Way and their Readers In the Heights program where kids participate in a Summer Literacy program. Readers In the Heights incorporated Traveling Stories this year and all the kids at participating sites were paid Book Bucks for reading over the summer. I scheduled a day with each site lead to come out and set up an area where kids can spend their Book Bucks we which we called “Cash Out” days.
My First Cash Out day was with Franklin Elementary where the kids had been reading for 3 weeks straight. I was not prepared for the hundreds of Book Bucks the kids were ready to spend. For this location, I actually ended up having to drive back to the office and prepare more prizes as we were all sold out within 10 minutes. This location had the most kids too with about 100 kids.  I left with my pockets full of Book Bucks and empty prize bins.

United Women of East Africa

My next visit was to United Women of East Africa where the kids had to take time out of their day to come and cash out (we scheduled on a day where RITH was not in session). At this location, we had about 10 to 15 kids come out simply to cash out their Book Bucks. With the help of my sister, who also happens to be a TS volunteer, we were able to help all of the kids purchase their desired prizes. Since parents had to bring their kids specifically for cash out at this location, they were present to help their kids make wise shopping decisions.

Copley Family YMCA

Copley Family YMCA was another small group as they had just started their Readers in the Heights program that week. However, the kids still managed to rack up enough Book Bucks to purchase some great prizes like Hot Wheels cars, balloons, bubbles, blocks and more. The kids at this location were very young, they kept experiencing buyers’ remorse and returned things a few times before settling on something they considered a wise purchase.

Normal Heights

Normal Heights Elementary was a lot of fun. I arrived for cash out during their literacy portion of the day and set up on their stage with the curtains closed to not distract the kids who were still reading. I spotted our volunteer Irene helping the kids read and it was great seeing how involved she is with literacy support in City Heights. The kids came in groups with their volunteer teachers and all got to pick out some prizes. One young reader was really excited for the pencil pouch filled with school supplies. The prize cost 25 Book Bucks and she only had 23, we were able to work out a deal where she could purchase the prize that day but would owe her teacher those two Book Bucks. She really liked that and left with a smile telling her friend ” Yes, I really needed this stuff for school.”


CDC cash out day was hectic. Their location seemed to be very convenient for the kids. When the kids asked if they could get permission from their parent to purchase a specific prize, all they had to do was walk a few feet and their house was right there so we had a little family involvement at this location. CDC had some of their volunteers help out with cash out because we had such large groups of kids here. The volunteers helped a lot because they had been working with the kids for a couple of weeks now and knew who would need more assistance. I saw a few familiar faces at this location, many of the kids and residence passing by were familiar with Traveling Stories and the work that we do and had even attended a StoryTent.

Cherokee Point Elementary

Cherokee Point Elementary was very organized. They had about 4 large groups that they split up into smaller groups and each child got a chance to check out the prize table with ease. Some kids played with their prizes while others were either purchasing or waiting to purchase. When the noise level got too high, I would hear a teacher say “waterfall” and the kids responded with SHHH and then silence. It was fun to see all of the creative ways the sites would keep the order. The kids got the chance to play with their prizes for a bit after purchasing before heading back to their stations. This location really like the Tranformers comic books and bought out all of my copies.


Karen Organization

Like us, the Karen Organization was new to Readers in the Heights. We both had to figure as we went so it took a bit longer for us to get set up. This location was one of the most exciting cash outs because I got to see all of the different stations and how the book bucks motivated the kids. The kids started out reading as a group while their volunteers helped me set up the prize area in the front. Little by Little volunteers would pull out kids from their stations and help them count their book bucks and purchase a desired prize. This location had over 60 readers and volunteers made sure to bring out as many kids as there were volunteers so all of the kids had someone helping them and walking them through their options. By the end, my prize tables were empty except for a few books. The volunteers had so much patience and order while still keeping things fun and it was great seeing the interaction during the cash out here. When kids were finished purchasing, they headed back to their larger room for a read aloud story time, a few playing with prizes while listening.


Fay Elementary

My last site to visit was Fay Elementary and these kids read so much that their teachers had to turn 1 Book Buck into 5’s and 10’s because they ran out. It was great to see the interaction between the kids at this location especially since a lot of them were siblings. They would step aside and borrow Book Bucks from their sibling if they were short and even purchased prizes for each other. The kids at this location loved that they were able to purchase backpacks and school supplies. The young kindergarteners had the most Book Bucks at this location and seemed to be making very thought out purchases. Some of the older kids ended up having to borrow Book Bucks from their younger kindergarten friends. We ended up staying at this location a bit longer than usual as they had so many kids ( over 60 ) and I don’t think any of these kids had less than 20 Book Bucks. Once again, I left with empty prizes bins. The teachers were so happy to see their students reaping the benefits of all of their hard work over the summer and thanked us for being involved with Readers in the Heights.


Even though it was a bit exhausting bouncing around all of the locations, it was truly all worth it and really exciting to see all of the kids we were able to help motivate to read during the summer.


Locations Visited

  • Franklin Elementary
  • United Women of East Africa
  • Copley Price YMCA
  • Normal Heights Elementary
  • CDC
  • Cherokee Point Elementary
  • Karen Organization
  • Fay Elementary

(Click the image below to view our slideshow.)

  • franklin elementary summer reading
  • franklin elementary summer r
  • franklin elementary summer reading
  • united women east africa summer reading
  • united women east africa summer reading
  • united women east africa summer reading
  • copley family ymca summer reading
  • Cherokee Point summer reading volunteers
  • Karen Organization summer reading