The Summer Slide
Too many children lose ground over the summer months. Without access to the enriching activities available to more affluent peers, research shows that children from low-income families lose as much as three months of reading comprehension skills over the summer. By the end of fifth grade, they are often as much as two grade levels behind their peers.
Today, hundreds of students in Dubuque benefit from quality summer learning opportunities including Summer Academy (facilitated by the school district), St. Mark’s Heroes Summer Academy, and Cool School at the YMCA/YWCA. All of these programs include high-quality literacy instruction and enrichment opportunities provided by community partners – and data show they are having a positive impact on kids’ reading proficiency. (graph showing stats)
In addition to these literacy-focused programs, many other community partners are now incorporating literacy into existing summer offerings, The City of Dubuque Leisure Services playground program, for example, recently started incorporating literacy activities.
While the summer learning landscape in Dubuque is robust, we know there are still struggling readers who are not participating in any of these offerings. Partners are working on parent engagement strategies moving forward to ensure that those struggling readers have access to a quality summer program.
In summer 2017, over 60 kindergarten to fifth-grade students from Dyersville area schools participated in the St. Mark Youth Enrichment summer program, which focuses on reading proficiency as well as social-emotional skills. For the second year in a row, the program included a special afternoon session focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). A 21st Century Grant and support from local foundations and partners have made this program grow each year. In 2017, 100% of the attendees increased or maintained their proficiency.
Along with the St. Mark summer program, Dyersville kids also benefit from Victory Ford’s Reading for a Reason program and the James Kennedy Public Library’s summer reading program, both of which incentivize and reward students who read throughout the summer.
In addition to this programming, a partnership through the Western Dubuque Community School District provided free meals to students at the summer learning program, as well as at an open site at the James Kennedy Public Library. Up to 75 individuals were served free, healthy meals five days a week throughout the summer.
Future initiatives for summer learning will explore ways to increase accessible transportation to help families attend programming, as well as increase participation in the library’s summer reading program.
Summer Adventure, a county-wide summer program, recently concluded its second year of programming. The program offers literacy instruction, enrichment activities, and also provides free meals and transportation to eliminate common obstacles faced by low-income children.
This unique program was developed by administrators at four school districts and two parochial schools – all partners in the Jackson County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading – who were determined to improve summer learning opportunities for students struggling to read. The Summer Adventure pilot program launched in 2016 and helped 76% of students to maintain or improve their reading proficiency.
The team is currently working on plans for Summer Adventure 2018. In addition, service providers offering summer care or learning opportunities in Jackson County are collaborating to address access issues and coordination of programming.