About Start with a Book

young child in a princess cone cap

To ward off the learning loss that many children experience over the summer, Start with a Book offers parents, caregivers, summer program staff and librarians lots of engaging ideas for getting kids hooked on reading, exploring and learning all summer long — and beyond.

What you'll find here:

Start with a book and launch a young reader this summer

The free resources from Start with a Book build on what young children already like — dinosaurs, building, animals, sports, superheroes and music — so that parents, camp counselors, and others can have fun and interact meaningfully with children while helping to strengthen their reading skills.

What is Start with a Book?

  • Twenty-four kid-friendly topics featuring specific ideas for using books and related downloadable activities to build closer relationships with children and to get them thinking, talking, creating and exploring.
  • Practical suggestions for using reading time to build a child's reading fluency — the ability to read a book or other text correctly, quickly, and with expression — with an opportunity to measure progress over the course of the summer.
  • A highlighted list of places to go and things to do in Washington DC and ideas for connecting reading with other summer activities.
  • Tips for parents in English, Spanish, and nine other languages to support English language learners.
  • A sign-up for weekly text messages — delivered right to your mobile phone — in English or Spanish.
  • Try our Community Adventure Tracker to log your learning adventures.

While designed with families in mind, Start with a Book also has a place in libraries and summer camps. Local organizations working with children in kindergarten through third grade are encouraged to take advantage of these free resources and adapt activities to group use. Feel free to share the Start with a Book flyer with friends, colleagues, and others in your community who help support literacy and learning in young children.

How to use Start with a Book

Here are some ways you can use Start with a Book for read alouds, writing, hands-on activities, and real-world explorations that stretch the imagination, build problem-solving skills, and help strengthen a child's vocabulary and knowledge of the world.

Start with a Book staff

Tina Chovanec

Tina Chovanec, senior director of Start with a Book and Reading Rockets, has more than 20 years of experience in non-profit project management and communications, including work as a writer, editor, print and web designer, and creative director. Since 2007, Tina has guided the development of new research-based resources on ReadingRockets.org, and spearheaded significant growth in audience through partnerships and outreach, syndication, and social media. In 2012, Tina launched a companion literacy initiative, Start with a Book, an online and on-the-ground project designed to help children build background knowledge and keep reading and learning during the summer and other out-of-school time. Reading Rockets has received numerous national awards for its television programs and websites, including recognition by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards program, Parents’ Choice, and the American Library Association. Tina has an undergraduate degree from Brown University and an MFA in communication design from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been a volunteer in public elementary schools and afterschool literacy programs in Virginia and Oregon.

Rachael Walker

Rachael Walker is the national partnership and outreach consultant for Start with a Book and Reading Rockets, writes and edits the Start with a Book toolkits, and is the host of our Book Life blog. Rachael is passionate about helping kids develop a love of reading and has more than 20 years of experience in bringing organizations together to promote children’s literacy. Her focus on literacy and outreach began at Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) where she served as External Relations Officer. In her consulting work, she has conceptualized innovative programs, launched national campaigns, coordinated special events and developed original content for projects involving film, television, web, and print for the National Education Association, the Afterschool Alliance, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Random House Children’s Books, the World Wildlife Fund, and WETA’s Learning Media initiatives: Reading Rockets, Start with a Book, Colorín Colorado, and AdLit.org. Rachael also has hands-on experience with meeting the challenges local nonprofits face having served three years as the Executive Director of Reach Out and Read of Metro DC, a coalition of early literacy programs based in DC area health clinics make literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care. In addition to her work for WETA, Random House and the National Education Association, she’s currently a Literacy Advisor for the PBS Ready To Learn Project; advisor to Tales2Go, an award-winning audio story service for families; and serves on The Reading Connection Advisory Council.

Eileen Hanning

Eileen Hanning, M.Ed., is the DC Metro partnership and outreach consultant for Start with a Book, and writes and edits the Start with a Book toolkits. Eileen has more than 20 years of experience designing reading curriculum for underserved kids and training for their parents and social service providers about reading and child development. Her passion for children’s books and hands-on learning has lead her to review children’s books, learn, research and write about education, child development and toxic stress, and to create her own consulting company, ReadLearnReach, where she serves a variety of clients with their curriculum, training, children’s book, and writing needs. She has developed curriculum for Random House, WETA, Reading Is Fundamental, the Girl Scouts of America, and Red Comet Press, and researched and written white papers for Tales2Go and Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia.

About Reading Rockets

For more than a decade, Reading Rockets, the award-winning national multimedia literacy initiative from WETA Public Broadcasting, has provided parents and educators with information and free resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. In 2012, Reading Rockets introduced Start with a Book, a companion website that uses books as a launching pad for exploration, conversation, and real world learning adventures.

The Reading Rockets project includes PBS television programs (also available online and on DVD); online services through ReadingRockets.org and the bilingual site ColorinColorado.org; professional development opportunities; and a robust social community on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest. The project is guided by an advisory panel made up of leading researchers and experts in the field of reading.

Learn more about Reading Rockets ›

Contact us

If you have questions about Start with a Book, please contact us at: info@readingrockets.org.

The Park Foundation, Inc.

Start with a Book is made by possible with generous support from the Park Foundation, Inc. The Foundation is dedicated to the aid and support of education, public broadcasting, the environment, and other areas.