ELLENTON – Anna Maria Oyster Bar is serving up more than food this summer. Owners John and Amanda Horne are piloting a summer reading program for incoming third-graders in Manatee County. Around 60 volunteers are needed to commit to reading with kids one day a week for four weeks starting June 5th at the restaurant’s Ellenton location.
Volunteers can sign up for four Mondays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.
The program will assign volunteers to nearly 100 struggling readers who are already enrolled in the county’s Camp RISE summer program. John Horne says the goal is for volunteers to become like mentors to the kids as they mingle over a hot breakfast and free books provided by an anonymous donor.
“I got involved after learning about the summer learning slide,” Horne said. “When kids are away from school there’s often no one encouraging them to read over the summer so we want to help them love books and meet new people who will become reading buddies.”
Horne said kids will be tested before and after the program to see if the experience helped make a difference in their reading skills. If the program’s a success, Horne hopes to expand it and inspire other local businesses to try something similar.