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Eight Hamilton County public schools will receive state funding to provide free summer literacy programs in 2018.

The Hamilton County schools are eight of 203 public schools statewide that are recipients of the 2018 Read to be Ready Summer Grant. It is the third year of the initiative launched by Gov. Bill Haslam, first lady Crissy Haslam and state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen in February 2016.

This year, the campaign awarded more than $8.8 million to grant recipients across the state.

The camps target rising first-, second- and third-graders who need additional literacy support and provide tuition-free summer programs for more than 7,000 students across the state.

This year, the state has increased funding per student in hopes to offer transportation to the camps, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Education.

Grant winners

Hamilton County Schools receiving a 2018 Read to be Ready summer grant are:

Barger Academy of Fine Arts

East Lake Elementary

Woodmore Elementary

Lakeside Academy of Math, Science, and Technology

Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy

Clifton Hills Elementary

Wolftever Creek Elementary

Orchard Knob Elementary

"This year, we are increasing access to our camps by providing additional funding to programs so that they can offer transportation to and from the summer camp," McQueen said. "As last year's results showed, these camps play a crucial role in increasing students' vocabulary, reading comprehension and motivation, so we are excited to remove the transportation barrier to allow our students with the highest need to attend."

According to Read to be Ready's 2017 Summer Grant Program report, 8,000 students in 73 percent of the state's school districts participated in the program. Students worked on reading and writing skills, participated in extracurricular enrichment activities and even received at least six free books to take home.

Summer programs such as Read to be Ready are intended to combat what experts call the "summer slide," or "summer learning loss." Students, especially those already in underserved or at-risk communities, actually can fall behind when they are not engaged academically during long breaks from school.

"These summer reading programs are vital to the academic success of children and it is wonderful to have our schools selected to participate — especially the schools in the Opportunity Zone," said Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. "It is also great to see the barrier of a lack of transportation for children being addressed by the state so that even more eager young learners can develop a love of reading over the summer months."

All Tennessee public schools were eligible to apply for the summer grant program. Applicants were chosen based on the summer camp programs they designed. The programs must be at least four weeks in length for four hours per day. The camps will provide free books and field trips to enhance students' learning.

All camps will begin by June 18, 2018. More information on Hamilton County's summer programs will be released in the spring.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com. or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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