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National Restaurant Association - At Anna Maria Oyster Bar, reading is fundamental

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At Anna Maria Oyster Bar, reading is fundamental

John Horne, back row right, with some of the kids from this summer's Dive Into Reading program

John and Amanda Horne are making sure that all children in their community get a chance to Dive Into Reading.

The husband-and-wife owner-operators of Sarasota, Fla.-based Anna Maria Oyster Bar are determined to end illiteracy so that the next generation is able to score academic and career milestones when they are grown.

Winners of our Educational Foundation’s 2018 Restaurant Neighbor Award, John and Amanda started Dive Into Reading, their literacy/mentoring program, in 2017 after realizing the inability to read is more common than they initially thought. In fact, national statistics indicate that 65 percent of fourth-graders can only read at or below their grade level. Once the Hornes understood this was a particular concern within their own community, they took action.

“It was our goal to help as many children as we could learn to read,” John said, noting that the inability to read at a corresponding grade level leads many students to drop out of high school before they can graduate.

The premise behind Dive Into Reading is simple; it consists of a summerlong, one-on-one mentoring program where Anna Maria Oyster Bar customers as well as local business owners meet with youngsters and help them develop reading skills and technique. Approximately 25 kids meet with mentors each week to read and discuss the books and share a hot meal. They read more than 1,000 books during the duration of the program. In addition, they also learn social skills, like how to deliver proper handshakes and table-setting etiquette.

The program has been a resounding success in the community, and the Hornes say their plan is to expand it to neighboring cities and then the rest of the state. Upon winning this year’s Restaurant Neighbor Award, our Educational Foundation presented the Hornes with a $10,000 grant that will allow them to continue their charitable work.

They said that first they’re going to tackle all Title 1 schools in Manatee County, but ultimately envision a national commitment.

“We’re not one and done,” John said. “We’re accepting the award and the $10,000 and we’re putting it towards expanding our program.”

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