Summer can be a slippery slide, but not in a fun way. According to the Colorado Department of Education, “summer slide” is the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
The cure is simple and the remedy is free. Summer slide can be healed by a strong dose of summer reading.
Diane Lauer, assistant superintendent of Priority Programs and Academic Support for St. Vrain Valley School District, is a big proponent of reading. She said, “We have seen that young children who don’t engage in summer reading are often outperformed by other students. We know that the most dynamic changes in academic improvement take place in the early years, and as students get older, their gains in reading achievement become smaller each year. We know children who do read over summer are often able to close the achievement gap and are able to perform better in the upcoming year.”
The St. Vrain district has prioritized reading strategies. Every student from kindergarten to 12th grade has an iPad and they are encouraged to take it home over the summer. One of the nation’s largest digital libraries is available to students so they can read digital books. When they return to school in August, there are awards and incentives for students in schools that had the highest number of minutes of reading.
“The digital library is part of our culture,” Lauer said. “It’s a wonderful tool. Even if students go visit their grandparents in Pennsylvania over the summer, they can take the iPad with them and keep reading. “
In addition, St. Vrain offers Project Launch, an extended school year for elementary, middle school and high school students. There is an emphasis on literacy but math is offered as well. Elementary and middle school students go to school an extra four weeks in June. Lauer said Project Launch is a full day, no cost extension of the school year with transportation, breakfast and lunch provided. “It is open to any student who would like extended learning opportunities in the summer. We do encourage students who are reading below grade level to sign up,” she said.
Last year 25 percent of K-5 in the St. Vrain district, or over 3,000 students, took advantage of the extended summer school.
Michelle Qazi, Director of Reading for the Boulder Valley School District, agrees. “It’s important not only for students but also for families to read with their students over summer. It’s important for families to read books to their kids that they wouldn’t be able to read otherwise. That exposes them to books they want to hear, helps them reach a higher-level vocabulary, and increases their comprehension. It also shows kids that everybody reads!”
The Boulder Public Library takes the bold step of offering incentives for summer reading and experiences. Anne Ledford, Youth Services Manager at Main and co-chair of summer learning program at the Boulder Public Library, explained that during the Summer of Discover program students get either a paper or digital log to track their reading and the accomplishment of experiences. When they have completed their goals, they get prizes such as Cold Stone Creamery coupons or passes to a park or recreation center. That way they get two experiences.
Claire Studholme, head of the Children’s and Teens Department at the Longmont Public Library said, “Each summer reader gets a BINGO board with various reading and activity challenges to complete. Once they get a BINGO or a blackout, they earn a brand-new book prize at the end of Summer, free book coupons from local Longmont bookstores, and an entry into several special prize drawings. There’s no registration necessary, you just pick up a BINGO board at the Library or print one from our website starting May 26.. Youth services librarians are currently planning a number of fun events, including a Summer Reading Kick-off party on our patio with special guest appearances from therapy dogs and ice cream to enjoy. We are also planning a few performances from musicians and magicians as well. Our Teen volunteer program will be going strong this Summer as well as our D&D group and the return of our Nintendo Switch gaming club. And we are still working on specialty science programs for elementary school kids. This is all in addition to our weekly storytimes! Our Bilingual (English-Spanish) storytime has reached many people virtually who can’t make it into the Library and we hope to at least have some new virtual Bilingual Storytimes for kids and their caretakers to enjoy on our Youtube channel, youtube.com/cityoflongmont, we also have reruns of Baby and Family Storytime available as well. Something that was super successful for us during the past two years has been “take-and-make” craft kits for young children, we gave out thousands of kits last year alone, and so for those who don’t want to do too much in person, we will have craft kits available throughout June and July for families to take home and enjoy together. Stay tuned for more details and a release of all the Summer Reading dates and info soon on our website longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-e-m/library and social media. All Summer events will be held in June and July with the exception of our Kick-off party in late May.”
By Linda Thorsen Bond