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IMLS Celebrates Summer Learning Day

June 20, 2014

By Susan H. Hildreth
IMLS Director

Today is Summer Learning Day, and I’d like to salute the tremendous efforts of libraries and museums across the country that provide opportunities for children to continue to read and learn during the summer months. The National Summer Learning Association, the Afterschool Alliance, America’s Promise Alliance, New America Foundation and the Urban Libraries Council work hard each year for this national advocacy day on June 20 to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning for our nation’s youth in helping close the achievement gap and support healthy development in communities all across the country.

As we know from our partners at the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, the summer slide phenomenon is a devastating problem. Children lose ground over the summer months. Without access to the enriching activities, children—especially those from low-income families—lose as much as three months of reading comprehension skills over the summer.

Fortunately, reading programs, enriching camps, and other offerings have been longstanding staples at libraries and museums. In fact, the State Library Administrative Agency Survey for Fiscal Year 2012 released earlier this month showed that IMLS Grants to State funding is used in all 50 states to support summer reading at public libraries, and in 2011 federal funding for summer reading totaled $2.34 million.

IMLS supports this work though a number of our grant programs, resulting in outstanding programs for students:

  • The Food for Thought project of Upland Public Library, CA, was supported with $28,053 from Grants to States funding in 2012. Through the project, library staff distributed free books, offered craft activities, and publicized the Reading is so Delicious summer reading program and other library services at weekly free summer lunch programs offered by the school district in a local park. More than 1,000 children participated over the course of 5 weeks, and 1,165 new books were distributed to participating children.
  • With $147,424 from a 2013 Museums for America grant, the Boston Children’s Museum is partnering the public schools and other groups on a Summer Club for immigrant families and children to prevent summer learning loss. The program will inform parents about the importance of summer learning and includes a five-week Friday night family summer camp with museum-based learning activities. Teen Ambassadors trained by the museum will assist with the club, and bilingual Parent Ambassador Hosts and guest speakers will facilitate parent learning and sharing.
  • A yearlong planning project of the University of Illinois-Champaign and the Douglass Branch Library will explore the benefits of summer reading programs supported by the use of tablet-based apps and e-books. With $46,678 from a 2013 National Leadership Grant, the partners will collect information about current practices, identify future partners, and design a multi-site project plan with recommendations on how to best support a summer reading program through technology.
  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium will use a 2013 Museums for America grant for a leadership program for teens that that exposes them to STEM career pathways. The program’s intensive summer training will provide teens with team building; natural history and ocean literacy content; customer service, interpretation, and communication training; and an introduction to the aquarium and its educational programs. Trained teens will provide at least 75 service-learning hours per year at the aquarium and will gain valuable leadership skills and hands-on work experience.
  • With IMLS Grants to State funds administered by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, the Maricopa County Library District recently created The Great Reading Adventure.  The web-based, open source software program is designed to manage summer reading programs. It is completely free and available for any library system to download and use.

What is your library or museum doing this summer to address summer slide?  If you are offering an innovative program or service, you can share it using #SummerSuccess. Please let us know about it.