From WISC-TV: An effort to raise donations by April 15 is aimed at helping Madison students maintain their reading skills during the summer break.

Read Up is a campaign to prevent declines in reading levels that typically happen for K-5 age children who don’t read during the summer months. WISC-TV News 3 and the Wisconsin State Journal have partnered to lead an awareness and fundraising effort. The two companies previously partnered in the Schools of Hope project just over 20 years ago. They’re each making $5,000 contributions to Read Up to get the fundraising started.

“Among the many things we like about the Read Up! initiative is that it represents the best of collaboration and direct intervention with many young, at-risk students,” Wisconsin State Journal Editor John Smalley said in a column about the partnership.

“WISC-TV News 3 and Madison Magazine just released its 2016 Editorial Agenda with Neil Heinen. Supporting Read Up focuses on the first goal which is our schools and our commitment to close the achievement gap,” said WISC-TV General Manager Tom Keeler. “We have designated 2016 as the Year of the Teacher and we can’t think of a better way to honor them by encouraging our kids and students to read over the summer to stop the ‘summer slide.'”

Read Up started in the Madison Metropolitan School District in 2013 as a program to distribute materials at community events and model reading strategies for families. There were pilot sites at Orchard Ridge and Lapham elementary schools. That first year, 262 K-5 students were served, and each received five new books.

Since then, the district has partnered with the United Way of Dane County and Madison Public Library to promote summer reading in summer school and the Madison School and Community Recreation programs.

Last summer, 418 students were involved in at Frank Allis and Lincoln elementary schools. Every student received at least five new books, and most got six free books.

More than 75 percent of Read Up participants maintained or increased their reading levels over the summer.

The United Way wants to get more books into the hands of young readers, based on research showing that students who read self-selected books for at least 15 hours during the summer maintained or increased their reading levels. The organization also cites research that said the summer reading decline can also widen the achievement gap.

For summer 2016, the partners want to expand Read Up to include site leaders that would join MSCR program leaders, book giveaways, librarian visits, Badger reading buddies, family literacy nights, parent engagement and more monitoring of results.

“John Smalley and I will personally reach out to many other like-minded corporate citizens to ask for their support in funding all 16 summer school sites in the Madison district,” Keeler said.

It costs about $10,000 per site to run the program.

Donations to Read Up can be made by visiting Use the drop-down menu to select the Read Up! Madison Fund. All gifts are tax-deductible.