While summer’s mantra of “no more pencils, no more books” may spark nostalgia for work-weary adults, the “no more books” part can be problematic for kids. Children in low-income areas are especially susceptible to forgetting what they learned in school if they don’t read over the summer.

That problem united roughly 50 summer program leaders on Friday at the North Sarasota Public Library to plan for this year’s Suncoast Summer Book Challenge, sponsored by the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The initiative works with summer programs where children earn rubber bracelets for reading.

The immediate goal is for each child to read six grade-level books or more during the summer. The long-term goal is to boost the number of third-graders reading on grade level in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The program's purpose "is to give you additional resources to promote a love of learning and love of books within your summer program,” campaign director Beth Duda said.

This is the second year for the challenge. Duda said she hopes to have at least 30 agencies participate this summer, which could mean more than 3,800 children. A total of 1,701 children in Sarasota and 929 in Manatee participated in the challenge last summer, reading a total of 10,738 books.

The campaign uses iReady data from Sarasota and Manatee school districts to assess the effectiveness of the program. iReady is a reading assessment that designates a child’s reading level.

“We are looking for results,” Duda said. “The places that really were all in on the program had great results.”

At Friday’s meeting, participants talked about what had worked well last summer and what they envisioned for the future. Barbara Rannigan, the site coordinator for Alta Vista Elementary School’s Summer Learning Academy, said she enjoyed going on prize patrol every Thursday. She would visit each classroom and reward children with a bracelet once they read six books and one bracelet for each book beyond that.

Kirsten Russell, an initiative consultant with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, urged participants to listen to their clientele and not take a one-size-fits-all approach as they implement the program.

“We so often think we know what a child or their family needs,” Russell said. “If you are building a reading program and the kids aren’t reading, ask them why.”

Each participating program will receive funding that can go toward staff training, hiring additional staff, field trips or bringing in teachers for special sessions. Most programs have partnerships with foundations or nonprofits to provide books for their participants, or they work with the library or school system.

Rannigan said one incoming first grader read 123 books and had so many bracelets she braided them into her hair.

“We may need bigger bracelets this year so they can put them up their arms,” Rannigan said.