'Kids for Kids' program helps kids stay sharp over summer months
What started as a Tecumseh family project is now on its way to becoming a nonprofit organization that will help kids remain learning-ready while they take a summer break between schools years. A program called, “Kids for Kids,” is designed to help kids “Stay Sharp, Be Smart” over the summer.Maura and Matt Rains have been coaching their sons Blakely, 8, and Hudson, 10, through workbook projects for the past few summers using Think Stretch Summer Learning workbooks, which come with a parent resource guide. “We are emphatic supporters of public education, and we chose to be involved in our sons’ education. We wanted to give them something supplemental to help them stay on track,” said Maura, who is a Realtor with Charles Reinhart in Ann Arbor. Matt is an attorney with Rains and Rains of Adrian. “We wanted to supplement our younger son’s desire to be smarter and looked for something to help keep him stimulated,” she added of her son, Blakely’s journey with the workbooks. “He’s now an 8-year-old testing at the sixth grade level.” Maura said Hudson is also at the top of his class and using the workbooks helped keep him on track as well. Both boys like the structure, even during the school year. Each morning during the summer, the boys are eager to do the work in the books, Maura said. When they return to school, the boys feel prepared to begin a new year. But last year, they noticed something. Teachers had to focus on reviewing work that had already been achieved.“The kids came to us and asked why other kids might be falling behind,” Maura said. “So we came up with the idea of buying workbooks for others so they could be in a better place when school begins.” Using their own money, the family purchased 50 workbooks from the company. They distributed flyers, customized for each school, about their proposed free Tecumseh summer learning program to each elementary school’s first graders, and accepted the first 50 students who applied. Parents were asked to sign a commitment letter pledging involvement in working through the book with their children and invited to a bi-weekly class held on alternating Fridays at the Tecumseh District Library for five weeks, led by Courtnee Madden-Szeman, a first grade teacher at Tecumseh Acres Elementary School, that the Rains hired to oversee the class sessions. “We had to turn kids away,” said Maura. “So we talked about how we might be able to expand the program in the future.” That’s when the idea of forming a nonprofit organization came about. “We wanted to be able to do some fundraising and then we can buy more workbooks and help even more kids,” she added.The final class session for this summer was held on Friday, Aug. 9, at the Tecumseh District Library, and not only was the teacher on hand to help the young students through their pages — Blakely, now a third grader, and Hudson, a fifth grader, mingled to offer encouragement and assistance.“We’ve talked about how learning is their only job right now, and they really love learning,” said Maura. “We hope that they can be contagious to other children who want to be smart and do well at school.”She said there have been several studies that show how students have retention difficulties and “learning slides” over the summer months, which is why the first few weeks of a new school year are often spent reviewing material from the previous school year. “This is a way that parents can help supplement their child’s learning and help the teachers as well,” said Maura. “It really does make a difference.” Kids for Kids will hold a hot dog party and award ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 11 a.m. at Patterson Elementary School. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be given out to participants, depending on completion and class participation levels. Kids for Kids now has a nonprofit number but is awaiting official approval as a nonprofit organization. Maura and Matt, and especially Blakely and Hudson, look forward to being able to help even more students in the future. For more information, contact KidsforKidsTecumseh@-gmail.com or call Maura at 313.717.7788.