According to the Beginning School Study (1982), summer learning loss “accounts for most of the achievement gap between students who live in poverty and those whose families are better off”. As a teacher in a School-Wide Title 1 building with 53% free and reduced lunch students, I began to wonder how we can encourage our students to participate in a summer reading program. Barbara Heyns’s 1978 landmark study found that children who read at least 6 books during the summer maintained or improved their reading skills. How can we get our students to read at least six books during the summer? Is there a place where the students feel safe and comfortable to read? The answer is their school library.
School libraries sit unused for three months out of the year. Let’s open the doors to these literature-rich locations to encourage the love of reading throughout the entire year. Beyond checking out books to read, the children could participate in book talks or book clubs one night per week, along with craft activities for the younger children. The children could win a free book each time they come to help build their home libraries. Local businesses and Parent-Teacher organizations could donate money or books for the incentive. Teachers and staff members could also participate in the book talks and book clubs. Seeing a familiar, friendly face will keep the families coming back, week after week.