What summer looks like these days At best, a child’s summer is a time for • • • • Something different Recreation Vacations Creative exploration Unfortunately, too often families find summer a time of struggle to find • Adequate childcare • Opportunities for education and enrichment Constructive activities make a difference Research consistently shows • Youths engaged in constructive learning activities return to school in the fall ready to learn • Youths who don’t have access to constructive learning opportunities are at a disadvantage when they go back to school in the fall The Learning Season: The Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement notes that summer programs can support academic success in four ways: (1) sheer availability of time; (2) building relationships between children and adults; (2) providing engaging learning activities that give children a chance to practice school-taught skills and make that knowledge meaningful; and (4) experiential learning. Summer loss • First described in 1906, more than a century ago • The well-documented phenomenon in which kids forget much of what they’ve learned over the summer • All students experience some, especially in math • It is too often accepted as the status quo, but it’s a problem we can solve. Raising awareness is the first step Summer loss research brief: Summer Can Set Kids on the Right – or Wrong – Course Summer loss and the achievement gap • The achievement gap refers to differences in academic performance between groups of kids based on family income or some other characteristic • Summer loss exacerbates achievement gaps • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higherincome youths can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities Summer loss and the achievement gap (continued) • In the area of reading, kids in high poverty areas lose a lot – more than two months of reading performance each summer. • The effect can be cumulative: research finds that by the time some children reach middle school, they are reading two-and-a-half years behind their peers due to summer loss • New research about the lasting impact of summer learning found that participating in good summer programs in the early elementary years made a significant, positive difference in reading achievement scores of incoming ninth graders Faucet theory • Wealthier families can make up for summer loss to a considerable extent, but poor families are unlikely to have that ability • Public agencies are critical in keeping access to services “flowing,” by offering summer enrichment opportunities to families with fewer resources • When school is in session, the resource “faucet” is turned on for all kids – providing such services as education, meals, safety, physical activities, etc. • When school is not in session, the faucet is turned off Learn more about the faucet theory, and how to keep it on Summer activities for very young children • For emerging readers – children in preschool and kindergarten – it is especially important to continue their exposure to text, books, and literacy during the summer Kinds of summer programs • School-based summer academic support programs • Camps: day camps and sleep-away camps • Community-based organizations’ summer experiences • Public libraries How teachers can mitigate summer loss • Arrange end-of-year parent/teacher conferences that focus on what parents can do during the summer to support learning • Check with the teachers of the next grade and find out what topics they’ll cover in the new school year - Preview some of those concepts with children - Let parents know what topics will be taught, and how to Use Summer Fun to Build Background Knowledge - Include upcoming topics on summer book lists How parents can mitigate summer loss • Time is at a premium, so try to work a little creative and fun learning into every summer day • If you’re taking a trip, read books about the destination in advance • Preview the places that you’re going to visit, and talk about the concepts and ideas that your family will be introduced to • Keep it engaging for both you and your child • Talk about what’s happening in the news • When you go places, talk about what you’re seeing How to Make the Most of Summer: What Parents Can Do to Keep Kids Sharp Over the Summer The best programs aim for summer gain • Accelerate reading performance • Providing opportunities to develop talents • Propel the child forward Public libraries • More than 95 percent of public libraries offer summer reading programs • Libraries are ideal places for families to continue their reading habits over the summer months • Library summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading Reading incentive programs Popular ways to encourage children to keep in the habit of reading • Events • Formalized recognition of the child as a continuing reader • Small gifts ALA’s Summer Reading and Learning for Children: Resources for Librarians Reading incentive program tips • Build on ideas from other librarians. Libraries often create summer reading manuals (a standard search engine will yield many of these) • To encourage children to read longer books, provide recognition for amount of time or number of pages read (rather than number of books) • Pay attention to what works in your local community • The best incentive programs use extrinsic motivation in order to build intrinsic motivation. Sometimes it takes external rewards to get children over an initial resistance, but in the long run we want children to be intrinsically motivated, excited, and interested in reading because it’s personally gratifying Organizations that offer summer programs • • • • • • • Libraries Faith-based organizations Community-based organizations Nonprofit organizations Parks and/or recreation departments Museums Cultural institutions Policy note: Communities should determine their assets, and figure out ways to get families access to those resources Beyond books • Libraries also offer audio books on cassette or CD – these are great to listen to in the car on long summer trips • Most libraries also have movies (DVD or video tapes) available to patrons. Make a game of reading the book and then watching the movie based on the book Video Finding the Right Book, Tifton, GA A visit to the public library shows how a child’s natural enthusiasms can lead parents and librarians to good books that will help create a motivated reader Featuring: Carole Fiore, American Library Association J. Sara Paulk, Head Librarian Phyllis Hunter, Reading Consultant How to choose good books • Follow the child’s natural interests • Librarians can help find good books in all sorts of subjects • Reading lists, e.g., ALA’s Summer Reading and Learning for Children: Recommended Reading for Children and Their Families How to choose good books (continued) • Readers’ advisories – when you recommend a book to someone, you are participating in readers’ advisory. The library often has formal advisories, and staff who are trained to be excellent advisors. But informally engaging in conversations with other families about the books you’ve enjoyed is another way to learn about new books you might enjoy • Check electronic resources, such as the International Children’s Digital Library Motivating reluctant summer readers • Really probe and “tune-in” to determine children’s interests • Try graphic novels • Help create the child’s self-image of himself as a reader • Model reading behavior – make reading a part of everyday life Barriers to library use • Unfamiliarity. Help parents know where the library is, help them develop comfort and familiarity with it, and help make library use a pattern • Distance. Book mobiles, school libraries, and electronic resources can help eliminate this barrier School/public library communication • Critical in making a good transition to summer • It’s a challenge, but the effort should be made • Public librarians should tell school librarians what the plans are for the summer, e.g., the theme of the summer reading program • The school librarian can share the school’s summer reading lists and other materials, as well as letting parents and children know what’s going on at the public library in the summer Motivation • The key is to take the things your children are expressing as their interests, and connect them to resources in the community • Surround kids with resources – reading material and other resources – to keep them inspired ReadWriteThink has activities by grade level that will keep children and teens reading and writing all summer long What parents can look for • There are educational opportunities that range from free to costly, programs in every budget range • If it seems like it would be fun and engaging to your child, they will probably get more out of it • When looking for childcare, ask what kinds of learning experiences the children will have, such as – Book clubs – Reading time – Team learning projects – Outdoor activities What parents can look for (continued) • Look for well-balanced programs that will provide many different things that kids need • Look to the library – it’s both fun and free • Also look for special programs at the library e.g., a bilingual mother/daughter summer book club in Houston, highlighted in this e-newsletter Video A Welcoming Library, Washington, D.C. A library in a bilingual school in which children’s love of reading is encouraged and resources in many languages are offered Featuring: Laura Kleinmann, Librarian How libraries support ELLs and summer reading • Día de los niños / Día de los libros • Developing collections in many languages • REFORMA, a subgroup of ALA focusing on ELLs • ESL classes • Help families make library visits an easy habit • Events • A recent ALA report shows that offering children’s books in many languages is very important in getting families into the library How parents of ESL students can encourage their children’s summer reading • Serve as role models – make sure that children see family members reading • Read in any or all the languages you know – People who can speak more than one language have an advantage in life – A second language is tied to identity “If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything” • Developed by Dr. Roy and her University of Texas students • Serves North American children at tribal schools • Helps build collections, plan events, and serve as connection between school and communities Learn more about the “If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything” program Types of students who benefit most • All students can benefit from summer learning • It is critical that kids in high-poverty areas have the same kind of access to activities that many children have as a matter of course Summer school • Summer school often has a bad reputation as a punitive measure, but it does not have to be that way • Many school districts are re-designing their summer learning opportunities with the aim of closing the achievement gap • Many school districts are partnering with nonprofit organizations, such as YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, or public libraries to add resources and become all-day enrichment opportunities Islands of Excellence • An excellent example of a summer program is Harlem RBI • Uses baseball and softball, and the power of teams, to provide inner-city youth with opportunities to build literacy, social, and emotional skills, and physical health • Boys and girls arrive in uniform, and then spend the morning working with their teams in classrooms doing literacy activities and hands-on learning activities with well-trained adult leaders. In the afternoon, the kids go out on the baseball fields and learn the sport • Policy note: As a country, we need to scale-up excellent programs. Federal, state and local resources need to be directed to do this How to find summer programs • Start with your school, ask teachers and the principal • Directories and family magazines • Neighborhood / community organizations (including recreation departments, community centers) • Public libraries Two resources that can connect parents to some resources in their state are the American Camp Association and the C.S. Mott Foundation Statewide Afterschool Network Characteristics of a good summer program The Center for Summer Learning has identified nine characteristics of effective summer learning programs: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Intentional focus on accelerating learning Firm commitment to youth development Proactive approach to summer learning Strong, empowering leadership Advanced, collaborative planning Extensive opportunities for staff development Strategic partnerships Rigorous approach to evaluation and commitment to program improvement Clear focus on sustainability and cost-effectiveness What about summer math loss? While summer reading loss gets a lot of attention, it’s clear that math loss is an issue for all children as well The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has a website of family math resources Based on family reading programs, some groups have created similar family math programs, ERIC Digest of Family Math for Urban Students and Parents reviews some of these programs, and these printout activities can help parents at home The Department of Education offers a booklet of fun activities: Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics How can I facilitate the summer reading of children with learning disabilities? • ALA’s Schneider Family Book Awards honor books that portray the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences • Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers is a list of books that interest reluctant teen readers, compiled yearly by ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Organization (YALSA) How can I facilitate the summer reading of children with learning disabilities? (continued) • Have an end-of-year parent/teacher conference concentrating on the child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) • Determine what the IEP requires over the summer • Make a solid plan to do the kinds of activities needed to keep the child on track during the summer months What can teachers do? • Find out what the student will be studying next year – Make summer recommendations that will build the child’s background knowledge in those areas – This will help ease the child’s transition to the next grade • Reach out to parents – Make sure they have what they need to find or create constructive learning activities via » Parent tip sheets » Book lists » List of community learning opportunities » Calendar of events at the local library What about year-round schools? • The goal is year-round learning • In many year-round schools, the school calendar is changed, but the number of days children are in class stays the same • If you add 30 more days, it means 180-200 hours more of engaged learning time. That can really make a difference What can I do to promote literacy while we’re on the road? Many activities fold seamlessly into the kinds of things parents want to do anyway • Audio books in the car (Tip: have a selection so no one gets burned out from repetition) • Serialized books (read aloud in the car or on CD) allow an opportunity to talk about what happens next, the plot, what to expect from the genre, and characters • Build in time for relaxed reading on vacation days What can I do to promote literacy while we’re on the road? (continued) • Undertake pre-trip reading about the destination. This helps build background knowledge and excitement • After the trip, children can reflect on their experiences by writing or building scrapbooks, for example Can technology help with summer learning? • In addition to audio books, gaming can really get kids involved in libraries and learning • ALA’s young adult section keeps a wiki list of games and gaming-related resources for libraries • Kids often have an intrinsic motivation to use technology Can technology help with summer learning? (continued) Caveats • Children should not lose out on physical activity by sitting in front of a screen • A recent study showed children gain weight three times faster during the summer months • Parents should look for a balance. Provide children opportunities for physical activity. Structured time and reasonable limitations on TV and computer time are needed How can I get my child excited about summer reading before school ends? • Plug in to their interests • Plug in to fun (e.g., humorous books like Captain Underpants) How can I create a family reading incentive program? • Rewards don’t have to be costly – Extra computer time – Celebrations or trips to fun places (like the park or a picnic) • This type of activity is great for teaching kids the value of working towards something over time – With consistent work and keeping your eyes on the goal, there will be a large end-of-summer reward What other media besides books are effective? Print, text, and words in all forms and fashions are excellent • • • • • • • Games Audio books Newspapers Magazines Books Labels / Signs / Logos Online resources The Newspaper Association of America Foundation offers a how-to Parent Newspaper Guide in English and Spanish Final thoughts • We need to think broadly as a nation about how we can make sure that our young people are learning over the summer. We must figure out ways creatively to close those gaps – achievement, resource, and opportunity. Our future is at stake if we deny millions of young people access to these kinds of opportunities. • Remember that the library is there, and has been there for over 150 years. Check out what’s new at the library. You may be surprised!