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Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson talks to East Brainerd students about the importance of reading. The Governor's Early Literacy Foundation is continuing their K-3 summer book delivery program that provides free books to students and teachers in Tennessee. They're kicking off this year's event and giving away books at East Brainerd Elementary.

In the library of East Brainerd Elementary School on Tuesday morning, around 30 students and half a dozen teachers received a black tote bag printed with Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Each bag contained a pack of books, marking the second year of a partnership between the Governor's Early Literacy Foundation and Scholastic to deliver free packs of books to the homes of K-3 students and first grade teachers across the state this summer through its K-3 Book Delivery program.

The partnership began last year with certain counties, including Hamilton, and expanded statewide this year for rising first graders. This year, the program will serve 10,300 K-3 students and 200 first grade teachers in Hamilton County Schools, and all rising first graders in Tennessee will receive a delivery.

Each pack contains six books, which will be delivered to students' and teachers' homes free of cost. Students will start receiving the books within the next week through the end of June and early July, said the literacy foundation's president, James Pond.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / East Brainerd students, from left, Sophie Huffstettler, and Alyssa Butler show their appreciation for the program. The Governor's Early Literacy Foundation is continuing their K-3 summer book delivery program that provides free books to students and teachers in Tennessee. They're kicking off this year's event and giving away books at East Brainerd Elementary.

"Eventually, every child in the state of Tennessee, all rising first, second and third graders, will have access to this program," Pond told the Times Free Press on Tuesday. "So for now, we've got 38 school districts that are currently participating where all of their grades are receiving it, and then this year, every first grader across the state of Tennessee is eligible to get these books, so then each year progressively we'll expand that."

The books aim to encourage reading throughout the summer and lifelong learning, said Chris Hedrick, senior vice president of sales at Scholastic Education Solutions.

"We do our own research at Scholastic through the teacher and principal school report, and that report shows that overwhelmingly educators know that access to books, outside of the traditional school hours and school days, in the summer and beyond, access to books at home, is key to academic achievement and also social-emotional well-being," Hedrick told the Times Free Press Tuesday. "You've got to get at the early ages, kindergarten through third grade, it's about getting them books that they love to read to develop that love of reading lifelong."

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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