Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer Engagement

This blog post about access to summer reading rings true:

Years ago I was having a conference with a parent and we talked about getting her daughter to read more at home.
"She has tons of books you all have given her," the parent said, "she just doesn't read them." 

Those words have haunted me for years because it never occurred to this parent to sit down and read with her daughter. Why? Because her mother never read with her, she explained, and she turned out just fine. (Unfortunately we do not believe the parent in question was literate.)

A lot of elementary schools have open library times during the summer, which is wonderful- if parents take the time to bring their children. At my former school we spent a lot of time trying to incentivize our families to take advantage of the library. We moved the library hours to be open when parents were getting off work and when the cafeteria offered free lunches during the summer thanks to a summer free lunch program. We had teachers do read alouds, we advertised for weeks ahead of time, one year we even gave all the students bags to keep their summer library books in. Turn out was still low. At one point I walked over to the nearby apartments, picked up one of my students and walked him too and from the library. Short of moving to a mobile library van that would visit our low income neighborhoods we weren't sure what else to do. This was particularly frustrating because we were coming off of being a year-round school. We were watching our students go from having the benefit of learning and reading almost all year to having an almost three month break. The results every September were crushing. 

To inspire learning and literacy over the summer we can't just give kids books and we can't just stop the conversation at opening the school during the summer. We have to keep being creative and thoughtful about the communities we serve in order to figure out how to keep our students engaged during the summer. Every school may find different solutions that meet the needs of their populations.

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