Washington County libraries help prevent 'summer slide'
Sixty-six percent of teachers have to spend at least three weeks at the beginning of each school year re-teaching material from the previous grade, according to a 2013 study from the National Summer Learning Association.
The culprit in this game of catch-up: the "summer slide," a term coined by academics to describe the documented educational regression students experience when they have three months off from school.
But for kids — and parents — in Washington County, there's a chance to escape the summer slide, thanks to Washington County Cooperative Library Services. All locations are hosting summer reading programs for kids, teens and adults.
"The research says that if kids are reading during the summer, they're either going to maintain or improve their reading skills instead of doing the summer slide," said Amber Bell, the youth services supervisor at Tigard Public Library. "That means they're not going to lose the skills they have gained over the last academic year."
Sign-ups for the summer reading program started on June 1 and will continue through the end of July. When kids, teens and adults sign up for the program, they are given the option to set a particular goal for themselves. The goal can relate to time spent reading (i.e., spend 20 minutes reading everyday) or amount read (i.e., read 20 books over the course of the summer).
Participants are given some prizes, including a free swim at the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation pool, just for signing up. Once kids and teens meet their goals, they earn additional rewards, such as a voucher for a Portland Trail Blazers ticket. Participating adults are entered into drawings for free e-readers and Powell's Books gift cards.
The program lasts through the end of August. Participants can sing up at any library location, and adults can register online at www.wccls.org.
Ian Duncanson, a youth services librarian at Beaverton City Library, said that the library accepts graphic novels, magazines and even audiobooks as valid reading material, and encourages both kids and adults to read whatever interests them most.
"The enjoyability is the most important aspect, both with that they choose to read and how long they spend reading," he said.
For parents whose kids don't enjoy reading, Duncanson encourages them to visit the library and ask for recommendations — "we love suggesting books for people, and finding books for difficult readers," he said. Duncanson said that parents' own reading habits can play a big role in their children's literacy.
"I would encourage them to limit screen time, and to model reading," he said. "It's very important for parents to read and talk about what they're reading for pleasure, and model that for their kids."
In addition to hosting the summer reading program, the libraries in Washington County also are holding a wide range of events for all age groups this summer, including Minecraft sessions, Manga fan clubs and free film screenings.
Bell said that these events often draw reluctant readers to the library, "and then maybe while they're here, they'll check out the books."
Bell said that by reading even just six books over the summer, kids can greatly decrease the effects of the summer slide. And having the free time to explore reading for pleasure can help them develop it into a lifelong habit.
"We just want to make reading visible," said Duncanson, "and to encourage reading for pleasure."