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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer Slide Is No Walk in the Park

The streets were littered with potholes. I drove by a house with the doors and windows boarded up and a Private Property sign was nailed to a wooden post. It was clearly abandoned.

The house next door had bars on all of the windows and the next house..and the next house.

There were no bikes or toys in the yards. No furniture on the patios. No one was out walking their dog. No morning joggers.

Where were the people?

A few blocks later, I arrived at my destination and pulled into a graveled parking lot. It was the first sign of life. Adults and children stood in line waiting for the doors of Bethlehem Center to open its arms.

I couldn't wait to see a nine-week summer reading loss intervention program in full swing!

Hmmm. Summer reading loss. What is it? Summer reading loss pertains to the loss in reading skills children experience over the summer months when school isn't in session. It is also called Summer Slide.

Summer reading loss is an epidemic among poor children. In one summer children in poverty lose two to three months of reading skills while children who are not poor maintain or increase in reading proficiency. By 5th grade, children in poverty may read as far as two to three years behind their economically advantaged peers.

The doors opened and I grabbed my notebook and headed into the summer reading sanctuary. I walked through a kitchen with a stove that looked like it was on its last leg. The smell of food wafted from the oven. Water bottles and loafs of bread and peanut butter and jelly were stacked on a counter. The linoleum floor was faded but was immaculately clean.

hot meals every day!
The summer reading loss program took up a room about the size of a normal classroom. All nineteen children ages 6-8 years old were either reading a book, writing about what they read, or talking to a partner about their book. Teachers worked one-on-one with children or taught in small groups.

And books were everywhere!

I really was shocked to see how happy the children seemed. I knew good and well that my own children would have thought they were being tortured if they attended a FULL day of summer school, EVERYDAY for NINE weeks!

Bethlehem Community Center 
I knelt beside a table with a group of boys and was surprised when one of the boys asked, "Am I in trouble?"

"Oh my goodness! I'm here to see the wonderful things you are doing in summer school."

He took a breath and seemed relieved.

"What do you like most about your summer school?" I asked, fully expecting to hear, "I like the teacher or it's fun."

But what he said surprised me. It has also changed me.

He looked into my eyes and without hesitation answered, "I get to eat dinner."

Confession Reflection:

  •  In what ways can schools/communities support children who don't have books to read in the summer?
  • Why is it important for teachers to receive professional development on summer reading loss? How might this information support lesson design and assessment?
  • What are some ways teachers can encourage parent-school partnerships to help prevent summer reading loss?
  • Why is it essential to make sure a child's basic needs are met?

To learn more about Summer Reading Loss 
National Summer Learning Association visit their site: