Relax! Summer Reading Resources Can Lessen Learning Loss

by Gabrielle Miller

It’s wonderful to see the signs of spring and think of summer vacation to come. Before long, we can relax and enjoy some time off… That is, unless you’re a parent of a school age child. If you are, you’re probably starting to worry about how to keep your child actively learning while school is out.

Those of us who work in family engagement understand that families have good reason for concern. Enrichment activities that minimize the ‘summer slide’ are critically important, but not easy to find—particularly for the children who need them the most. The good news is that there are national, local and in-home supports that can help.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like The Campaign for Grade Level Reading and The National Summer Learning Association, awareness of the need to expand learning opportunities is at an all-time high. Even the White House has gotten on board, sponsoring a recent event, White House Summer Learning.

At the community level, cities like Baltimore are ‘braiding’ efforts to expand and deepen high quality options for families. My organization, Raising A Reader (RAR), is proud to be a part of a community-wide collaborative of funders, non-profit organizations, and trusted local agencies that have worked for many years to coordinate and deepen summer program options in Baltimore.

One example is that many school libraries revitalized by The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation stay open over the summer, becoming a local beacon for children. This in turn attracts other funders/partners (like The Abell Foundation and The Enoch Pratt Library Public Library, among many) to offer enhanced services through school libraries and to develop innovative programs that address summer learning loss.

One of these innovations, a digital expansion of our validated model, Raising a Reader, was piloted in 2015 with support from The Abell Foundation. We are proud to report that through the I Am Raising A Reader pilot, 700 Baltimore families received vital print and digital resources in their homes. This enabled families with low income to maintain home literacy habits that their children had developed by participating in Raising A Reader earlier in the year.

In the evaluation done by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the report noted that “….This type of program likely fills a real need for families — i.e., a need and ‘desire’ for reading/academic activities and materials to engage their children during the summer that is not part of a formal program.”

Building on the pilot’s success, the program has been expanded in 2016. I Am Raising A Reader (v.2) is now available to families across the nation. Not only does the program expand support throughout summer vacation, it also is available for out of school time during winter and spring breaks, and includes support for the transition back to school. For more information, go to: Raising A Reader

Baltimore is just one example. Communities across the nation are recognizing that when families are meaningfully involved in promoting learning, children succeed. As we work together to expand the number, and improve the quality, of the options for families, summer will be a time we all look forward to.

Gabrielle Miller, President and CEO of Raising A Reader, a validated national literacy and family engagement program based in Redwood City, California, and a member of the NAFSCE board