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Project Summer Stride

The very thought of summer brings all sorts of activities to mind. Picnics. Vacations. Plowing through that list of summer must-reads. And, of course, plowing through that summer garden! Summer is an active time, indeed.

With all its possibilities, for many children, summer is not an active time of reading and learning. Over the past few years we have found out more and more about the effects of summer reading loss--often called “The Summer Slide”--for young children who are not encouraged and supported to continue reading and learning through the summer months.

Think of it this way: what if you were trying to learn a brand new skill, one that you could be struggling with, and then suddenly you had to stop practicing for almost three months? When you started back, it would be very much like starting from scratch. You’d likely be frustrated, bored and maybe even want to give up. This is what the Summer Slide is like. Young children who are not supported in continuing to build their reading skills during the summer months often fall drastically behind. Study after study has shown this. The Summer Slide sets many young learners back, even if they have a reading tutor during the school year.

I am happy to announce that this summer, Richland Library is undertaking an ambitious project to see how public libraries can support young readers through the Summer gap. With funding from a National Leadership Grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), our library will be partnering with The United Way’s Midlands Reading Consortium, Richland One School District, University of South Carolina’s Office of Programs and Evaluations and a host of community tutors to make sure that a large group of students who are currently struggling with reading have the support and encouragement they need through the summer weeks until school starts back in August. Knowing that we want to turn around the Summer Slide, we have aptly named this effort Project Summer Stride.

Many think that it is only up to our school systems to support reading and learning. We believe that it is the responsibility and purpose of all our community organizations to make a brighter and more successful world for children. Project Summer Stride is an unprecedented initiative for public libraries in our region, and perhaps nationally. We will be chronicling both the successes and challenges of our weekly efforts that this IMLS grant is allowing us to explore right here on our website (search Project Summer Slide to follow the journey). Through this process it is our sincere desire to see how the public library can play a more active and notable role in helping children become stronger readers and learners.

During the library’s Summer Reading Challenge, we offer innumerable ways for all ages to keep their minds active. We encourage you to find your own stride challenge yourself to read in new ways whether switching over to a book of poetry or nonfiction from your usual novel or reading aloud with your friends and family once a week. You may want to challenge yourself to find out more about the composer or rock band you are listening to on a loop or find the writing that inspired your favorite movies. There are so many ways to read. So many ways to learn. If you need a little inspiration turn to your library. That’s why we are here.

By the way, if you are interested in becoming a reading tutor for a child who needs help, please contact the Midlands Reading Consortium at 803.758.6983.

Let the Summer Stride begin!

[photo credit: chrisroll]