GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Just like practicing an instrument or learning any new skill, it’s important that kids keep up with their reading so they don’t slide backward in their education.
But with the pandemic hitting during last school year and continuing through this new school year, it’s likely students experienced a bit of the summer slide, so I spoke with some experts on what that means and how you can help.
“In past summers, we've seen a lot of families in the library, and this summer it's been very much reduced," said Andrea Estelle, library director of Otsego Public Library.
That is understandable, with the hit of the coronavirus pandemic. Libraries all across West Michigan are doing what they can to help our children keep up with reading.
"The way that we've tried to help battle summer slide is by offering options for families to visit remotely," Estelle said, "and also to be able to come through a drive-thru and pick up materials if they didn't feel safe coming into the building."
And not only is Otsego District Public Library doing this, but Grand Rapids Public Library is as well, making sure the children in our community have access to books so they don’t lose their reading skills they gained during the last school year.
‘If they don't have access to books, they can lose an average of two months per summer," said branch manager Andrea Cosier. “You can't make it up once you get back to school … that two months is cumulative. So, if you lose two months one summer and then you lose another two months the next summer, in a few years you've lost a whole school year.
“And that can be really frustrating for kids,” Cosier noted. “They can think that they're doing something wrong or they're just not good readers. And it's just them not having access to books, which unfortunately can lead to kids later dropping out of school.”
“I think there are people that don't realize that there are areas in the city where it's difficult to get access to books, and we are working on fixing that. There's a lot of people in that community working on fixing that.”
But there are some easy ways we can help our kids engage in reading.
"It's been shown time and time again that ... kids get the most benefit from reading when they get to choose what they want to read,” said Crosier. “It increases reading comprehension. increases vocabulary, writing style, grammatical development, all of that stuff that you want from reading will be increased if your kids get to read what they want to read.”
And make sure it doesn’t feel like a chore.
“One of my favorites is cooking together, so reading a recipe and going through the activity of cooking is a great way at home to definitely build love for reading” she suggested. “And another cool thing that we have going on in West Michigan is there's a lot of little free libraries. So finding those around your town and visiting them: bring a book you don't like anymore and put it in there maybe, but also picking up some books for your kids.”
“Most importantly try to make sure you’re reading with your children every day. So, even if it's 15 to 20 minutes reading every day with everybody from birth and up, so babies toddlers preschoolers and having their kids who can read every day is very important.”
If you’d like to help with childhood literacy right here in our own community and take part in our “If you give a child a book ...” campaign, click here. The Scripps family of stations has provided a $5,000 matching fund, so your donation will be doubled. And, all money raised in West Michigan benefits children in Title 1 schools within Grand Rapids Public Schools.