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​Op-Ed: Kids need to keep learning over the summer – here’s how

Click here for a video message from State School Superintendent Richard Woods and State Librarian Julie Walker

July 12, 2018 – For Georgia’s kids, summer is a time for fun and family – but it’s also a critical time to keep learning. Literacy, and being able to read on grade level, plays such an important role in all educational attainment that we can’t afford to hit the brakes on reading during the summer months.

Research has found that when students don’t read during the summer, they lose up to three months of reading ability. This “summer slide" lowers achievement potential; the effect is more pronounced as students get older and for those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, according to a Johns Hopkins University study. The same study shows that, for students in low-income areas, elementary school summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap in high school.

Without enriching summer learning opportunities that are both affordable and accessible to all, the loss of our children’s potential future success increases exponentially.

The good news is that our state’s public libraries have a robust Summer Reading Program in every county, where kids of every age can discover a love for reading and grow new skills from robotics to gardening. In many libraries, they also can get a hot meal, bridging the gap for the more than 60 percent of families who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Click here for all summer meal locations.

Another key way to stop the summer slide is for parents to read with their children and listen to audiobooks. Your library card gives you free access to both of these resources.

There are also many online and in-person summer learning resources available to families. To make this information easily accessible to families, the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Public Library Service and other Get Georgia Reading partners came together to create GeorgiaSummer.org. The site includes information on reading resources, summer meals, and more.

The Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Public Library Service and other partners are committed to giving our kids the opportunity to learn, year-round. As a state, we’ve strengthened our commitment to literacy through partnerships like the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, which brings public and private leaders together to take on third-grade reading as an urgent priority. Thirty-eight school districts – recipients of the L4GA literacy grant – are forming birth-12, community-school partnerships to improve literacy outcomes. Georgia’s public libraries are collaborating with their local school districts – for example, in Cobb County, students can now use their student IDs as library cards. That’s something we ultimately hope to see scaled up statewide. 

We can’t afford for these efforts to halt during the summer months – or for students to lose the educational ground they’ve gained during the year.

Literacy is a priority because children are our priority – and we know that’s the same for you, too. We urge parents, families, and others who interact with Georgia’s children to take advantage of the resources available and keep students reading during the summer.

Without their success, our state’s future won’t be as bright.

By State Librarian Julie Walker and State School Superintendent Richard Woods

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