By Barney Blakeney
South Carolina Reading Partners in two weeks will wind up its summer reading program at Charleston’s Arthur Christopher Gymnasium after having spent the past month helping participants in the gym’s annual “Jump To It” summer camp prevent ‘Summer Slide’ reading skills loss. The program ends July 26. A second site at Hunley Park Elementary School in North Charleston began June 11 and ends July 19.
Reading is the foundation for all future learning and early reading skills are imperative for success in school and life. Most of Reading Partners’ work is done during the school year as volunteers are paired with students who on average meet twice weekly. The California-based program operates at 17 Title 1 schools in Charleston and Berkeley counties. All but four of the schools are located in Charleston County School District.
Kim Williams Odom, community engagement associate, said some 800 students have participated in the program. Reading Partners went into communities this summer to help ensure the progress those students experienced might be extended to others. “Summer Slide” is the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
Literature demonstrates that reading over the summer stems summer slide. Children in low socioeconomic families can benefit most from summer reading programs. Survey results are compelling, demonstrating that children’s enjoyment of reading, reading skills, and reading by choice often increased after participating in summer reading, especially among families participating in summer reading for the first time and parents of children ages 4-6.
Odom hopes the intervention will be continual. The program needs volunteers and books. The longer the free voluntary reading is practiced, the more consistent and positive the results. Preventing summer slide is most effective when community organizations work together to encourage kids to read, make reading fun, and to teach families about the importance of reading over the summer.
Odom is asking for volunteers to participate next school year. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about one-third of our nation’s fourth graders can read proficiently. Once students start to fall behind in reading, they tend to fall faster and further behind their peers with every year. Nationwide, only 20 percent of low-income students, and 34 percent of students overall, are reading proficiently by the fourth grade. In South Carolina, currently four out of five fourth graders from low-income families cannot read at grade level.
The sessions are a little more than simply reading with a child; volunteers follow a proven, structured curriculum to help students learn specific skills. It’s simple, and it works, Odom says. Each lesson comes with step-by-step instructions and materials and a trained site coordinator is always available to answer questions, assist with the materials, and solve problems.
For more information, to donate books or to volunteer those interested should contact Reading Partners at volunteerSC@readingpartners.org.