Summer Slide is the term for lost school achievement growth that can occur over the summer. Researchers have found that students from low income families can especially be affected, losing between 2 to 3 months in their reading levels during this time. Unfortunately, this can add up, leaving many students as much as 2 ½ to 3 years behind their peers. Children who read during the summer are more likely to have their achievement remain steady or modestly increase. School and public librarians can work together to help solve this problem.
The Role of School Librarians
Before the school year ends, school librarians can start a book distribution program with community partners to ensure children have books to read. In Durham (County) NC, we have partnered with Book Harvest to provide two free books to students in the school system. Prior to that partnership, I allowed for summer book check out. Students were able to check out ten books over the summer. Another local school, Lacy Elementary, sponsors a bookmobile over the summer that visits area apartment complexes. I also help promote the Durham County Library Summer Reading Program. The children’s librarian brings promotional materials for students to take home. To incentivize school librarians to promote their SRP, the Durham County Library gives away STEM/Makerspace kits to local schools who increase their number of students who participate from the previous year, so it’s a win-win for both of us.
The Role of Public Librarians
When school is out, public libraries can serve as a classroom to students. We contribute to summer learning by bringing students into the library, encouraging them to read, and getting the entire family involved. We attract students with our programs and free access to music, videos, computers, and of course, books. Library collections reflect a wide range of interests and reading levels, and public librarians are ready to guide children in selecting items that fit their interests.
Public libraries also provide their patrons choice in the materials they select – a difference from the required reading at many schools. According to the Colorado Department of Education, children receive the most gains in reading achievement when they select reading materials themselves and read for enjoyment. These positive results are more consistent the more this free voluntary reading is practiced. Public librarians can contact their local school counterparts to see what books have been especially popular over the past year in the school libraries.
Working together, school and public libraries can give more access to books and encourage reading, which are key strategies in fighting summer slide.
Anne Ledford is Department Head of Youth Services for Lone Tree Library at Douglas County Public Libraries in Colorado. Michelle Burton is a School Library Media Specialist at Spring Valley Elementary in Durham, North Carolina. They are both members of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.