The “summer slide” is not a new waterpark attraction or a dance craze. It’s a situation that many children and their families likely are not even aware of, much less think about as they enjoy their summer vacations. That’s unfortunate, because it creates unnecessary difficulties for kids when they return to school in the fall.
“Summer slide” is a term used by educators referring to the learning loss that occurs when children do not engage in educational activities, especially reading, during the summer months. Nearly 66 percent of teachers reported needing to devote up to four weeks reviewing or re-teaching the same material at the beginning of the school year that their students had learned the previous spring, according to a 2013 survey of 500 teachers by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA).
There also is troubling research that the summer slide impacts children and youths from lower-income homes to a greater extent than those from middle class and wealthier households.
According to “Summer Reading – Closing the Rich/Poor Reading and Achievement Gap,” edited by Richard L. Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, one analysis found that summer vacations created, on average, an annual achievement gap of about three months between lower-income and wealthier students. Children with special needs and language may face increased barriers.
Promoting reading might help kids close the gap. Local libraries offer a variety of summertime programs and events to foster a love of reading in a child.
This summer, many libraries are putting their own spin on a common campaign theme: “A Universe of Stories!” promoted by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), which commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the first manned moon landing by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.
The following are some summer reading programs taking place around the region, followed by some at-home suggestions parents can do to prevent the summer slide.
The Akron-Summit County Public Library’s “Mind, Body & Sole” campaign promotes reading and wellness for the whole family, but especially for school-age kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. From now until July 27, participants may register at one of the library’s 19 branches throughout Summit County to receive a reading and exercise log. Registrants are encouraged to read and exercise at least 30 minutes daily and return their completed logs after reaching 10, 26, 40 and 50-day milestones. Children receive prizes such as tote bags, raffle basket tickets and food coupons as each milestone is reached.
Trish Saylor, children’s library manager at Akron-Summit County, says activities such as walking, running, swimming, yoga and physical therapy can count for the program’s exercise portion. Children are encouraged to read whatever interests them, including graphic novels. “Mind, Body & Sole” includes other events and offerings, such as visits by various performers and Akron Zoo animals.
The library also has a full slate of other summer offerings, such as its “Sunday Story Time Sampler” for infants and toddlers, “Family Summer Movies” for tweens, and “Paws for Reading,” a national program in which children can practice their reading skills by reading aloud to therapy dogs. Visit akronlibrary.org.
Akron residents have other reading options beyond the library. The city of Akron, Akron Public Schools (APS), the Summit Education Initiative, and the EX[L] Center at The University of Akron are partnering to host a summer reading program through Aug. 8. The program is targeted at helping Akron students in kindergarten through second grade practice their reading with support from a community volunteer. Eleven of the program’s 12 reading sites are located in APS schools to place children at ease by reading in familiar environments. For the convenience of families, free lunches will be provided at all of the program’s reading sites.
The program is seeking volunteers to read to students. Parents interested in registering their children and would-be volunteers should contact Summer Reading Program Coordinator Roberta Rogers at 330-812-7878 or [email protected].
The Cuyahoga County Public Library has enlisted some heavy hitters to promote its summer reading programs. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and the library entered their summertime reading season in early June as the hometown favorites with the launch of their “Grand Slam Summer Reading Game.”
The library’s baseball-themed campaign promises a winning season of incentives for those that register online at cuyahogalibrary.org and attain reading milestones from now through Aug. 3. Once registered — the program’s first milestone — participants may log their reading times online or by bringing library-provided game boards to any of the county’s 27 branches for stamping by library personnel.
Robert J. Rua, assistant marketing director at Cuyahoga County Public Library, says that the game is primarily open to kids from kindergarten through 12th grade with the goal being for them to read 16 hours during the summer. Throughout the course of the game, kids are eligible to receive incentives and prizes from sponsors such as Chipotle’s Mexican Grill, Choolaah, Chuck E. Cheese’s, the Cleveland Monsters, and Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream.
Rua adds that those who reach the game’s eight-hour mid-point and 16-hour completion point earn grand prize entries to the program’s end-of-summer raffle. Donated prizes include Indians tickets and experiences at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the Great Lakes Theater and Playhouse Square. Visit cuyahogalibrary.org.
Cuyahoga Falls Library
The Cuyahoga Falls Library’s summer reading program is one of several in Northeast Ohio using the “A Universe of Stories!” theme. Beth Sucharzewki, the library’s children’s department manager, says library personnel looked for ways to incorporate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) offerings into its programming.
“Our team was able to plan tons of activities that will help prevent the summer slide and give children the opportunity to build critical STEM skills all summer long,” Sucharzewki says.
Among the library’s offerings for children and teens through July 20 are “Astronaut Camp,” “Fun with Sensors,” “NASA @ My Library,” “Mad Science-Destination Moon,” “MakerSpace with Outback Ray,” “Tween Tech” and a mix of activities with guest performers and lecturers. Visit cuyahogafallslibrary.org.
Kent Free Library
The Kent Free Library’s “A Universe of Stories!” summer reading program runs through Aug. 2. Children in preschool through 12th grade may sign up in the library’s Dubois Children’s Reading Room for their age-appropriate program.
For the preschool-through-12th grade program, students receive a record upon registration to track the time that they spend reading or listening to audiobooks. For every 15 minutes that they read, they earn 15 points on their reading record. Students also can complete optional challenges or attend library programs for additional points. Points can be “spent” as votes in the library’s “Care for a Critter Contest” — a joint project with the Akron Zoo — or on take-home prizes.
Points also may be spent on raffle tickets for grand prize drawings. Prizes include astronaut ice cream sandwiches, Dunkin’ Donuts pool floats, Cleveland Monsters tickets, and restaurant coupons. Among the more unique prizes are chances to ride to the first day of school in a city of Kent firetruck or to be a Kent Free Library librarian for a day. Visit kentfreelibrary.org.
Mentor Public Library
The main branch of the Mentor Public Library and its Headlands, Mentor-On-The Lake and the HUB @ Mentor High School branches are promoting their “A Universe of Stories!” reading program through July 28. Upon registering, participants are given a game sheet “rocket ship” to record the amount of time that they have read. Times are logged in 15-minute increments and, upon completing an hour of reading, participants receive a raffle ticket that they can place in one of 32 prize envelopes. At the end of the program, the library will draw one name out of each of the envelopes for a prize raffle.
The program is open to preschoolers through sixth graders. Parents are permitted to read to their preschool-age children and log that time to enter raffle drawings. Kids can show off their reading skills and gain a “Library Champion Yard Sign” by completing 15 hours. For 20 hours of reading, kids can earn a gold ticket for a chance to win a $50 Target gift card.
Mentor Library Children Services Manager Kim Sidorick says that reading logs also are available at daycare centers throughout Mentor. Children are welcome to read the books at their own daycare centers for their reading minutes. Visit mentorpl.org.
Reed Memorial Library’s “Universe of Stories! Summer Reading Challenge” for children and teens runs through July 29. Children age 10 and younger may stop by the library’s Children’s Department to register. Participants receive a challenge log that includes literary and activity-based challenges to occupy them during the summer.
Teens fill out raffle tickets for every book, magazine, or audiobook that they complete. Tickets will be entered into separate weekly and grand prize drawings.
Angela Young, the library’s children’s services manager, says that some of the prizes adhere to the campaign’s emphasis on space exploration and include such items as a telescope and Galaxy Backpack.
Teens who turn in eight tickets will be invited to Reed Memorial Library’s first after-hours lock-in featuring an escape room, pizza and scavenger hunt. Visit reedlibrary.org.
Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library
Children and teens may register at the Children’s Desk in any of the Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library’s four branches — located in Eastlake, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills and Willowick — to participate in its “Summer Reading Program 2019 – A Universe of Stories!” Sponsored by Lake County’s transit agency,
LAKETRAN, the program will be available through July 20. Children and teens receive reading records on which they color one square for each day that they read for 20 minutes. Seven days and seven colored squares later, they may return to their branch to spin a prize wheel.
Willoughby-Eastlake Children’s Services Manager Sarah Vargo says that children may win free books, toys and tickets for weekly raffle drawings for prizes from Five Below stores. The raffle prizes for teenagers are age-appropriate items such as Amazon and Starbucks gift cards. Visit we247.org.
Encourage Reading at Home
Along with libraries and reading programs, there are other resources available to families to combat summer learning loss. To encourage children and families to read independently throughout the summer, MetaMetrics — an educational research group — offers a free, research-based tool, Find a Book, to help students create personalized reading lists and locate those books at the nearest libraries or bookstores. The Cuyahoga County Public Library offers an online Kids & Teens reading list of contemporary titles, which includes listings for eBooks and eAudiobooks for Kindle devices and reading apps.
There is another resource that children can tap that isn’t available in a brick-and-mortar library. It isn’t a program. It isn’t in a school. It isn’t online. It’s their parents and caregivers.
“We know that when parents read in the home and their kids see them read, the kids are more likely to become readers themselves,” Rua says. “The parents are essentially modeling that reading is an enjoyable pastime or a worthwhile pursuit.”
The availability of books in a home also is a factor as to whether children will take an interest in reading, according to Vargo. While recognizing that owning books might be cost-prohibitive for lower-income families, she notes that they are free at libraries. Many libraries — including the Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library — are even suspending fines for overdue items just to encourage reading.
“The more books that are lying around the house, the more books that are in the bookcase in the house, the more likely the kids are to pick up those books and read them,” she adds.