Read a Book, Change a Life
What’s so great about reading in the summer? For starters, reading is a low cost activity that can be done almost anywhere. Books take us on vacations even if we can’t physically get away. When we do travel stories drive off the boredom of long waits and tedious journeys. At relaxing destinations a good book will enhance the pleasures of our leisure; on stressful trips books provide a much needed respite. While recreational reading may feel like a guilty pleasure for adults, enjoyable summer reading is essential for children whose skills are still developing.
For children, the benefits are lifelong game changers. There are compelling reasons to make sure every kid gets to indulge in the simple pleasures on the page. Reading for fun is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary and reading speed. Regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic level, or previous achievement, children who read four or more books over the summer perform better on reading comprehension tests in the fall than their classmates who read one or no books during the summer. Children who get to choose the books they read are most likely to actually finish that one and choose to read another.
During the school year, lower income children’s skills improve at close to the same rate as their more advantaged peers. But, without recreational reading during the summer, they will need four to six weeks of re-teaching of skills forgotten during the summer. “Summer Slide” accounts for as much as 85% of the reading achievement gap between lower income students and their middle and upper income peers.
Learning losses during the summer are cumulative, creating a wider gap each year between more proficient readers and less proficient readers. By the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer reading loss has accumulated to a two year lag in reading achievement. Third graders who can’t read on grade level are four times less likely than proficient readers to graduate by age 18.
Because children who choose their own books get the most joy from them, Children’s Reading Alliance volunteers (Summer Book Buddies) take summer reading seriously. Through the generosity of local donors and hard work by many volunteers 11,705 books are making their way into the hands of children this summer. For many of these children this will be the first book they have ever owned. From past experience our volunteers know just how prized a possession a book can be for a child who has never had one. Each of our volunteers can tell their own poignant story of a child choosing a book for the first time. Last summer, a little boy was looking longingly at the table full of books before him. The Book Buddy asked how many books he already had at home. He beamed, “This will be my first one!” After a Book Buddy at another school suggested that it would be fun for the children to share their books with each other, a little girl shook her head, “I’ll keep mine in my backpack where it will stay safe.” Another child chose a bi-lingual book so her grandmother could read with her.
Volunteers have been busy for months preparing for “Summer Book Buddies,” a collaboration between CRA, LCPS K-3+ and summer reading programs in Dona Ana County. Thanks to Rhonda Karol, Lydia Polanco, Pat Dimmie, Leticia Fickes, Ada, Carolina and Gabriela Mornesca, Kay and Victoria Brilliant, Hootie McFarland, Maria Flores, Andrew Martinez, Emmy Martinez, La June Smith, Terry Miller, Ginnie Neill, Ann Rohovec, Jim Billings, Marcus Crawford, and many local donors, we anticipate putting 11,705 books into the hands of children this summer. Another twenty volunteers are story-time readers who will make a combined total of 90 visits to schools and will read approximately 450 stories to kids. Their mission is to bring crowd pleasing children’s literature to life for over 2,000 children attending K3+ program in Las Cruces. We are grateful to Rhonda Karol, Jan Reed, Brenda Van Dyke, Alison Bills, Chris Chaput, Jo Ruprecht. Olga Ramirez, Loni Todoroki, Jean Berlowitz, Cheryl Howard, Ruth Rubin, Claudia Billings, Cindie Shonk, Marcus Crawford, Arilene Aguirre, Paula Moore, Monika Mojica, Sarah Mindlin, Kelly Alexander, and Ursula Strauss.
As of this writing we are approximately $2,000 dollars shy of our goal. If you would like to contribute please visit our website: childrensreadingalliance.org to donate electronically, mail directly to CRA 3880 Foothills Road, 88011, or call Maria Zuniga at (575) 522-3713.