If you’ve seen or been involved in any of our work in education, “summer slide” probably isn’t a new term to you. For those that haven’t, the learning loss that happens between May and August, when children are out of school, is commonly referred to as the summer slide. Students are out of structured learning environments for three months and start to lose ground in the knowledge gained during the school year, particularly in math and reading skills.
With the COVID pandemic, schools were pushed into an early summer with many parents and families struggling to keep up with virtual assignments and their new role as teachers. The summer slide we would typically see is now going to be impacted by longer breaks and less opportunity for academic support.
United Way of Story County (UWSC) has been involved in enrichment programs to keep students learning through the summer for years. Now, we’re tackling the issues that our current landscape is presenting head on. Our local Campaign for Grade-Level Reading coalition, Story County Reads, is spearheading innovation to provide new and different ways to reach students safely.
Over the past weeks, schools have been providing meals to students at Grab and Go sites throughout the county in lieu of the meals they would have gotten at school. UWSC has worked alongside the Ames Public Library and the Ames Community School District to provide free books to students receiving those meals. Nearly 5,000 books were given out to students in Ames, grades PK-12. Once funds are secured, we hope to continue this new program later this summer.
Now that the true summer break has officially arrived, we’re looking for ways to resurrect our traditional enrichment programs. Working with our partner agencies and many outside programs to keep kids learning, many program options will be made available this summer. Raising Readers in Story County will soon be beginning their Harrison Barnes Summer Reading Academy Reading Buddies program virtually. Students will have volunteer tutors meet with them through online sessions, offering one-on-one learning experiences. Campfire will be creating “Curbside Camp” activities available for delivery and then connect with learners online to review the activities. Iowa State Extension has come up with Grab and Go Stem Kits, with everything included for fun projects to be completed at home. Our typical enrichment programs, offered in schools with support from YSS, may now have a more relaxed atmosphere, meeting in open areas like parks or parking lots.
As much of our lives have seemed to be put on hold due to COVID, summer learning loss will not stop. We fight every day for access to quality education for everyone, and COVID-19 won’t keep us from doing just that. We will continue to press on to provide our youngest generation opportunities to succeed. If you would like more information on educational resources in Story County, please reach out to Story County Reads Director, Malai Amfahr, at email@example.com.