SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A local non-profit that purchases books for Sioux Falls students plans to double its outreach during the upcoming school year.

The Promising Futures Fund is looking for sponsors for its Book-a-Month Club. Last year, the club purchased books for students at six Sioux Falls grade schools. This year, the goal is a dozen elementaries, plus two middle schools.

The Pioneer Spray park is a popular destination to escape the summer heat in Sioux Falls. But after a day of play, Jackie Johnson’s four elementary school-age kids like to wind down by reading.

“When we go to the library, they each have their own separate bag and I say go pick out five or six books and they’ll pick out five or six and then come back, can I pick out two more? Yes, you can pick out two more,” Johnson said.

But not all families have such easy access to books.

“We’re gonna just flood these schools with books for these kids,” Promising Futures Fund founder Steve Hildebrand said.

The Promising Futures Fund plans to furnish Sioux Falls students with nearly 50,000 books in the coming school year. Its Book-a-Month Club will pay for a book for each student at 12 elementary schools each month. The students get to pick out which books they want to read.

“Reading research shows that if a kid can pick out their book and own their book, there’s a greater chance that they’re going to read their book,” Hildebrand said.

“And I think it’s something that the kids will get super-excited about looking forward to receiving that book every month, they probably feel, oh, I got my book! They’ll probably love it,” Johnson said.

Expanding the book a month club becomes all the more important during the pandemic, as a way to boost students’ reading skills that may have lagged during their time away from the classroom.

“Kids were out of school for two-and-a-half months and they lost reading proficiency, more than likely most of them lost reading proficiency and so the idea is that we need to put an even greater emphasis on reading,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand is asking each donor to sponsor a classroom throughout the school year, so that every student will get to take home a book every month.

“It’s a big lift and we really hope people in Sioux Falls will support it,” Hildebrand said.

The Book-a-Month Club hopes to involve 5,500 kids in 220 Sioux Falls classrooms. If you’re interested in donating, click here.