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From the Director - May/June 2012

Dear Friends,

Every Tuesday morning during the school year, you’ll find me with my knees tucked under a child-sized desk, leaning in and patiently listening, as a young friend practices reading. Some of the children I’ve helped over the years have just needed to practice reading aloud to build their confidence; others never mastered the early building blocks of reading and have fallen behind. Some days, the children are eager to give any word a try. Other times, they get discouraged on the first page and want to quit. But all of the children I’ve worked with grin from ear to ear when they get a tough word right or read that first book with no help at all.

Like other library staff and probably some of you, I love being a volunteer tutor for children who struggle with reading. The library has teamed up with the Midlands Reading Consortium of the United Way of the Midlands to provide one-on-one support for students and schools needing it most. But it saddens me that many of these children will miss that support for the 11 or so summer weeks. They won’t have easy access to books, a trained professional or a reading buddy who knows how to turn their frustration into success.

The facts are bleak. If children aren’t reading on grade level by third grade, their chances of graduating from high school on time decrease and the odds that they’ll end up behind bars increase. Those of us who just magically started reading around first grade or who have never seen a child go through the process take for granted what a struggle learning to read can be. Add the “summer slide” the learning loss that occurs when students are on break and progress takes another hit. Struggling readers are especially vulnerable to starting a school year with less reading mastery than they had just months before. In fact, research shows that low-income children, by 5th grade, are about 2.5 years behind their more affluent peers due to summer learning loss.

At RCPL, we know we could do more to help struggling readers. Besides adding our staff to the cadre of volunteer reading buddies in the community, we’re also creating innovative reading intervention programs that will be among the first of their kind in the nation. I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, there are things you can do to help. Make sure the children you know have access to books this summer. Start a children’s book club in your neighborhood. Share this letter and the entire magazine with all the parents you know and adults who work with summer programs.

Reading just four to five books during the summer can prevent a decline in a child’s fall reading scores. It doesn’t take much, but it will take all of us!

Warmly,

Melanie Huggins

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