Did you know, that on average, students can lose up to two months of reading skills over the summer? Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put youth at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like math and reading. The math and reading skills low-income students lose each summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids. We all cherish the notion of summer as a time of relaxation and fun, but it comes at a heavy cost to low-income students and the schools that serve them.
That’s why United Way of Wyoming Valley is investing in strategies that help address the underlying challenges that can keep young children, especially those in low-income families, from learning to read proficiently.
At the United Way of Wyoming Valley, we’re working hard to address the challenge of the “summer slide” through unique and innovating programs and initiatives.
The United Way of Wyoming Valley has teamed up with Wilkes-Barre Area School District, The Campaign for Grade Level Reading (C-GRL), and The Luzerne Foundation on an initiative to promote the importance of reading over the summer through the TAG IN campaign. Summer 2017 will be the first year United Way of Wyoming Valley will launch an aggressive awareness campaign to help parents understand the devastating effects of summer learning loss. The TAG IN awareness campaign is two-pronged. The first priority is to ensure parents, especially those of elementary aged school children, understand why it is so critical to keep kids reading over the summer. The second goal, which is just as important, is to keep kids reading over the summer.
Campaign elements include awareness brochures delivered to all pre-K – 5th grade students at Kistler Elementary School that include simple activities to keep kids interested in reading as well as tips and resources for helping kids become strong readers. Plus we added an incentive to help encourage reading over the summer. Kids at Kistler Elementary School who read the required number of books and turn in results to their school will earn an ice cream party. The campaign also includes a multi-media awareness campaign to include: radio, tv, facebook, billboards and print advertising.
The TAG IN awareness campaign also shines a spotlight on Book FLIX, a free online literacy resource available through Scholastic Books and supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Book FLIX gives elementary school students across Wyoming Valley access to hundreds of e-books on http://www.powerlibrary.org/. All you need is your library card number! Students not only have access to hundreds of books but also films in English and Spanish!
Each year, the United Way of Wyoming Valley creates summer-themed literacy kits for children ages 3 – 5 enrolled in Pre-K Counts classrooms across Wyoming Valley. The literacy kits contain age-appropriate books as well as a variety of fun literacy activities and helpful information for parents to keep youngsters learning throughout the summer as they prepare to enter kindergarten.
FEED AND READ INITIATIVE
The United Way Feed and Read Program utilizes a network of community centers and churches to provide lunch, half through the USDA Break Spot program and the other by utilizing their own center’s kitchen resources at many of the sites. In addition, United Way also has reading mentors who volunteer to provide one-on-one and group reading opportunities and encourage summer reading. Each child will receive reading-level appropriate books to keep in their personal library.
Last summer a total of 16,000 books were provided to the 3,600 participating children. To complement the Feed and Read effort, Project Hunger funds were used to purchase more than 15,000 back-pack meals that the neediest children received for at-home consumption.
WHY OUR WORK ON REDUCING THE SUMMER SLIDE IS SO IMPORTANT
To succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months.
According to Reading is Fundamental, low-income children and youth experience greater summer learning losses than their higher-income peers. On average, middle-income students experience slight gains in reading performance over the summer months. Low-income students experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of more than 2 months.
Summer learning loss contributes to the achievement gap in reading performance between lower- and higher-income children and youth. Research demonstrates that while student achievement for both middle- and lower-income students improves at similar rates during the school year, low-income students experience cumulative summer learning losses over the elementary school grades.