Summer Slide Guest Commentary
by Mary Polizzotto, Ph.D. and educator
While the term “Summer Slide” conjures up a playful image, the results of this phenomenon are anything but fun and carry lifelong consequences for our children.
Summer Slide refers to the fact that students who are not actively reading over the summer experience significant, cumulative reading skill loss that can affect the rest of their lives.
This may sound like a bold statement, and it is, since a lack of basic literacy skills is linked with academic failure, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, unemployment, low productivity and welfare dependency.
Summer Slide costs us…all of us.
Educators now spend an average of 4-6 weeks re-teaching materials that students forgot over summer break.
Couple these facts with the reality that low-income students often don’t even have access to books (one report noted that, nationally, the lowest-income areas have only one book for every 300 children), and it becomes clear how children from disadvantaged families start start a new school with reading scores 30% lower than students with steady access to books.
By the time children in need finish fifth grade, they’re nearly three reading grades behind their peers, placing them at risk for continuing the cycle of poverty. Even middle- and upper-income struggling readers experience a two-year lag in reading skills by the time they reach middle school.
What’s a parent to do? Ensure that your children have access to age-appropriate books, whether purchased or from the library. Research shows that leisure reading is the best predictor of reading speed, vocabulary and comprehension. Plus, it’s fun.
Also, lead by example – spend time reading to and with your children. Replace an hour of TV with an hour of reading. Having a role model or a large collection of books in the home has a greater impact on your children’s reading than your income does.
That being said, 60% of our 43,000 students in Collier County are economically needy with at least limited access to books, which is why programs like Books for Collier Kids are crucial to our community.
Books for Collier Kids distributes new, age-appropriate books to our community’s children in-need. Early childhood education experts select the materials and offer suggestions to teachers who create lessons plans that support the curriculum and encourage an environment of fun and learning.
A volunteer-run program, Books for Collier Kids gives a new book to some 6,500 students monthly. Purchasing books through The First Book Marketplace helps keep costs in line while ensuring quality.
The free books are distributed through every Title 1 School and Head Start Pre-K program in the county. The organization collaborates with Habitat for Humanity and Christ Child Society of Naples to provide more than 100 “starter home libraries” to low-income families in our community annually.
The group also distributes books through partners including Collier County Public Schools, Early Literacy and Learning Model (ELLM), Friends of Foster Children, Grace Place for Children & Families, Guadalupe Center for Immokalee, Immokalee Housing & Family Services, NCH Healthcare System, Ronald McDonald Caremobile®, Youth Haven and more.
During summer break, Books for Collier Kids distributes materials through summer learning programs at the Boys & Girls Club, Grace Place, Guadalupe Center, Greater Marco YMCA (serving Manatee and Parkside Elementary schools) and Fun Time Early Childhood Academy.
Since it was established in 2005 as First Book-Collier County, Books for Collier Kids has distributed more than 700,000 new books to children in our community and enjoys survey ratings of more than 98% for value and effectiveness.
By working together, family, friends, organizations and schools can help level the Summer Slide and open a whole new world of adventure, education and fun for children in Collier County.
It takes a community to ensure our children not only have access to books but are reading regularly. For more information and to support Books for Collier Kids, visit www.BooksForCollierKids.org, or call 239-394-4062.
– Naples Daily News, July 17, 2016