It's called "the summer slide" and, as fun as it sounds, it is serious business—shorthand for the loss that children, especially in lower income families, experience when they’re not reading over the summer.
To reverse the slide, the Idaho Commission for Libraries, with help from Boise State Literacy Professor Dr. Roger Stewart, is doing what it can to keep the doors open to six elementary school libraries this summer in hopes that more children will keep flexing their reading muscle over the summer.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to do this,” Stephanie Bailey-White, ICfL reading programs coordinator told Boise Weekly. “By keeping the school libraries open and providing free books, we hope it’ll make a difference.”
Through this program, ICfL hopes to accomplish three things: increase the amount of reading done over the summer, raise the number of children who are reading at grade level, and build the capacity of school and public libraries to better serve children and families in their area.
"Ensuring that books are available to all students throughout the year has been proven to enhance the reading achievement of low-income students,” State Librarian Ann Joslin told BW.
But during the summer months is when it gets more difficult to provide access to books for those students, and thus begins the summer slide. Keeping the libraries in their schools open throughout the summer allows students a more accessible option for those who can’t reach the public library.
“Since 2005, we have focused most of our efforts on public libraries,” said Joslin. “However, in schools with large numbers of low-income students, we saw only 10-20 percent participation.”
All six schools participating in the summer-reading push are in areas where at least 60 percent of students come from low-income families. Three of the schools will participate in a “full-court press” approach, where, in addition to keeping the library open through the summer, kindergarten through second-grade students will take home six books the last month of the school year. They are encouraged to read and return the books, and participating students will be able to keep at least two.
Schools taking part in the “full-court press” approach are Fernan Elementary in Coeur d’Alene, Horizon Elementary in Jerome and Desert Sage Elementary in Meridian.
The remaining schools will participate in a “zone” approach, where the students will not get the additional books to take home. The two methods are to compare which approach works best for the students. These schools include Lakeside Elementary in Plummer, Mountain View Elementary in Burley and Wilson Elementary in Caldwell.
The Desert Sage Elementary library in Meridian will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. through Aug. 7. Wilson Elementary in Caldwell will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., also through Aug. 7.