Blogger Early & Family Literacy committee

Summer’s Changing and It Should

For years, public libraries have been offering some form of Summer Reading Program for the youth in their communities. There is an abundance of evidence on the benefits of Summer Reading Programs in reducing the effects of summer slide and reducing the achievement gaps that can exist between students from low and middle income families. (For more resources look at and In the last ten years, many public libraries and youth librarians have been asking the questions “Is a Summer Reading program enough?” and “How can we help reduce our students’ losses in mathematics and other subject areas?”  The evolving solution to those questions is the transformation from Summer Reading Programs to Summer Learning Programs.

What are Summer Learning Programs? As YALSA describes in its white paper “Adopting a Summer Learning Approach for Increased Impact”, Summer Learning Programs consist of a multi-literacies approach to help students reduce the summer slide and achievement losses in a variety of subject areas including traditional reading, visual literacy, media literacy, STEM, 21st century learning, connected learning, and digital media. These programs can include facets to address community needs such as English Language Learner offerings, food service programs, and the provision of a safe space in the community for youth to frequent and connect.

There are numerous organizations and individuals that are researching and providing support for libraries offering Summer Learning Programs. A few to begin your research include:

1.       The National Summer Learning Association 

2.       The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

3.       The Dominican Study: Public Library Summer Reading Programs Close the Reading Gap 

4.       Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count by Elizabeth M. McChesney and Bryan W. Wunar

5.       Transforming Summer Programs At Your Library by Natalie Cole and Virginia A. Walter

6.       The Colorado Department of Education

7.       Urban Libraries Council

8.       School Library Journal’s article “Get Ready for Endless Summer Learning by Linda Jacobson

9.       Making the Move from Summer Reading to Summer LearningALSC webinar by Elsa Ouvrard-Prettol

While a major overhaul of your Summer Reading Program may not be the direction your library is ready to take, you can begin supporting the overarching summer learning goals necessary to prevent subject area summer slide in our communities by incorporating a few simple tweaks to your summer programming. Some ideas include:

1.       Highlight nonfiction materials that support all information types. These include mathematics, science, history, biography, technology, and arts-based resources.

2.       Plan passive activities that support multi-literacies. Include a web-based scavenger hunt, an engineering challenge (like paper airplane tests), or pattern activity.

3.       Collaborate with local makers for programming. While our go-to performers are wonderful (everyone loves a magician or zoo outreach!), consider reaching out to local makers and crafters to come and share their skills. Look at local universities, maker’s guilds, crafting leagues, or businesses to come in and share their skills with young people.

4.       Listen to the ALSC webinar “How to Put the library in STEM by Emily Bredberg and Alicia Montgomery. Start a new Lego club. Try a STEM based story time plan (a popular resource for that is the ALSC Blog!)

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. Email us at or comment to this blog!

Today’s blog post was written by Jo Schofield, Branch Manager at the DeHoff Memorial Branch of Stark County District Library in Canton, Ohio, on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @Readmorelit.

This post addresses ALSC Core Competencies:

  1.  Recognizes the effects of societal factors, new knowledge and tools, income inequality, health and food insecurity, etc., on the needs of children.
  2. Understands theories of infant, child, and adolescent learning, literacy development and brain development, and their implications for library service.
  3. Understands current educational practices, especially those related to literacy and inquiry.
  4. Assesses and responds on a regular and systematic basis to the needs and preferences of children, their caregivers, educators, and other adults who use the resources of the children’s department, including those unserved and underserved by the library.
  5. Integrates literacy-development techniques in program design and delivery, engaging and empowering caregivers in a culturally competent way.
  6. Designs, promotes, presents, and evaluates a variety of programs for children, with consideration of developmental stages and the needs, interests, and goals of all children, their caregivers, and educators in the community.
  7. Stays informed of current trends, emerging technologies, issues, and research in librarianship, child development, education, and allied fields.


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