Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Beating the Summer Slide

by Clara Kerrone (Marketing Intern)

Summer is such an exciting time for everyone, but especially kids. School’s out, the sun is shining, and there are endless days ahead of them for fun times with family and friends! Some of my favorite summer memories include countless sleepovers with friends and camping trips with my family. Another favorite was doing the summer reading challenge at the library- my mom would take us to the library near my house every few weeks to check out new books, and we would get stamps from the librarian to track how many books we had read, which led to awesome prizes when we hit certain goals.

The one hidden downside of summer break, however, is a sneaky learning barrier called the “summer slide.” The summer slide is basically the concept that when kids take a break from learning over the summer, they can lose a minimum of 2 months’ worth of knowledge they had worked so hard to gain during the school year. Children from low-income families can lose even more during this time, because of a lack of access to learning resources such as having books to read at home, or being able to participate in engaging summer camps. This lack of access to after-school and summer programs leads to students falling behind by as much as two grade levels by the time they're done with elementary school. And even worse, if a child isn’t at reading level by the end of the third grade, studies show that they are six times more likely to drop out of school.

As discouraging as those numbers can be, it is important to remember that we can prevent that learning loss! This is a huge goal of United Way this summer. There are so many ways to keep kids on track. The Tacoma Public Library’s Summer Reading Club offers both free access to books and a fun incentive for kids to keep reading all summer long. The YMCA offers tons of free summer camps that are both fun, and academically engaging so kids can learn without even realizing that they are, or feeling like they're in school.

United Way of Pierce County is kicking off our summer learning initiative with Day of Action on June 19th, and we are confident that this event will get the wheels turning in the right direction for the whole summer. We have joined in with the Free Little Library’s program, a national movement where members of the community build small library’s (think dollhouse sized!) to be placed around the city and continuously stocked with free books. The idea is that members of the community can then take a book from the little library and replace it with one of their own, so the selection is always changing. Recently I was going on a walk down McCarver street and noticed one- and it had tons of books in it! The friend I was with told me that it had been there for a while and that she always sees people using it. It made me even more excited for Day of Action, and to see these Little Library's popping up all over our community.

We believe that successful kids start with strong families, and a supportive community. That’s why helping fund these free programs for kids is an important part of what we do, and something we will stand behind for years to come. Little Library's and summer reading are a perfect way to work towards our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty by 2024.

So this summer, when you’re figuring out child care and fun activities to fill your kid’s time, don’t forget how important it is to keep them involved in programs that do more than just let them spend some time in the sun. Then someday, they will look back on their summer's and remember those programs of being some of their favorite memories too, just like the book challenge at the library was for me!