Gov. Sam Brownback read the children’s book “One Kansas Farmer” Wednesday afternoon at the Central Library in downtown Wichita.
He held Chase Janzen, 3, on his lap. Chase’s sister, Carly, 7, stood by the governor’s side, holding her rainbow-colored teddy bear.
The governor was promoting “Read Kansas Read,” a new program that aims to encourage children to read during the summer and avoid the “summer slide.” That’s a term used by educators to describe the skills that some children lose when they don’t practice reading, math or other subjects for an extended period of time.
“Because children read on a regular basis during the school year, they are honing those reading skills,” said Cynthia Berner Harris, director of libraries at the Wichita Public Library. “During the summer, children get out of some of those habits, so when they return to school in the fall, there is a period where they basically have to go back and pick up what was lost over the summer.”
Currently, 28 percent of the state’s fourth-graders are failing to meet reading standards, Brownback said.
The program is promoted through videos in which the governor, his wife, Mary, and sports figures such as University of Kansas football coach Charlie Weis and Wichita State University volleyball coach Chris Lamb challenge children to outread them over the summer.
At readkansasread.ks.gov, students can consult lists of books targeted to their interests and reading abilities.
Wednesday’s event in Wichita was the second of four similar events throughout Kansas aimed at promoting the program, the governor said.
At the end of the reading, which lasted about 20 minutes, Bill Anderson, 69, offered the governor a science book about evolution, encouraging him to study the theory. While Anderson did that, a handful of other Occupy Wichita members waited outside the library with placards.
“Brownback’s cutting education and meanwhile he’s reading to the children,” said Janice Bradley, a retired teacher. “We think that’s very ironic.”
The governor pointed out that the state recently restored part of the state budget for K-12 education that had been cut during the recession.
“Performance has gone up,” Brownback said. “It’s not all strictly tied to funding.”