Preventing the summer slide: Local libraries combat summer reading loss
by Sara Milledge
Star Staff Writer
May 19, 2013 | 4887 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some area elementary schools can expect an unusual visitor this week. “Tiny,” a giant green triceratops, is tagging along with librarian Kim Westbrooks to promote summer reading in schools across Calhoun County.

Registration begins this month for programs that local public libraries are hosting for readers of all ages. Avid readers can win a number of prizes, ranging from neon slap bracelets to an iPad.

But Westbrooks, the children’s librarian at the Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County, said summer reading programs offer children more than prizes. Research shows participation in summer reading programs can help curb summer reading loss, or “the summer slide.”

Kids lose reading ability during the summer if they don’t read when they’re not in school. According to a 2007 Johns Hopkins University study, the effect of summer reading loss accumulates over time. Children who lose reading skills over the summer cannot catch up with other students in the fall, and by the end of the sixth grade, children who experience the summer slide are two years behind their classmates.

“Everyone involved helps prevent summer slide,” she said, adding that the Anniston library is offering teen and adult summer reading programs, too.

Amy Henderson, the director of the Oxford Public Library, agrees.

“Any time we can keep kids, adults, any age group reading, we can help prevent the summer slide,” she said.

Westbrooks also said lower income students experience greater summer reading loss than their more affluent peers. A John Hopkins study estimated that 50 to 67 percent of the achievement gap, for minority students as well as those living in poverty, is the result of summer learning loss.

Henderson said participation in summer reading programs can also help prepare students for the coming school year. She added that the programs are a good way for children and teens to plug in at their local library.

“Summer reading gets kids of any age involved,” she said. “And it keeps kids involved for the summer.”

Westbrooks, who expects the teen turnout in Anniston to be in the hundreds and the children’s to be around 1,500, said summer reading programs go beyond reading loss prevention for children and teens.

“It encourages them toward lifelong learning and opens their eyes to things they may not have seen in the past,” she said.

Westbrooks added that children can explore subjects they are interested in more deeply than they would be able to in school. During the summer program, she added, teens are not confined to reading the classics. They can read traditional novels, as well as manga and comic books.

Teresa Kiser, director of the Anniston library, said that summer reading is beneficial for adults, too.

“I think people need to continually be lifelong learners,” she said. “It helps your brain to function and grow.”

Jacksonville readers can register online www.jacksonvillepubliclibrary.org until May 30, or visit the library during normal operating hours from June 4 to July 3.

Registration for Oxford’s summer reading program begins on May 28. Readers can visit the library in person to register and pick up an events calendar.

Anniston readers can register online at www.publiclibrary.cc/summerreading or in person at either branch of the Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County.
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