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Public Libraries Make a Difference: 5 Key Benefits of Summer Education Programs

Public libraries perform a key role in the education and development of young learners through summer education programs.

Summer vacation threatens to reverse many of the achievement gains that students—and teachers—worked so hard to reach during the previous school year. Low-income students are especially vulnerable to the “summer slide.” According to the Young Adult Library Services Association, low-income students “lose more than two months in math skills and reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.” Summer education programs can stop the summer slide.

 

Public libraries that offer dynamic summer educations provide these five key benefits:

1. Foster a Love of Reading

To foster a lifelong love of reading, summer reading programs offer incentives for kids to read multiple books during the summer. This summer, the New York Public Library is encouraging kids to read by challenging them to enter an essay contest where they write about how the book they are reading or how books in general help make the world a better place. The winners will see the Yankees, meet a player, and take a bow on the field.

2. Close the Achievement Gap

Summer educational programs help reduce the achievement gap experienced during the summer months. This is especially critical for low-income children who may have other opportunities available. In 2010, a study carried out at Dominican University found that:

• Students who participated in the public library summer reading program scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those students who did not participate and they gained in other ways as well.

• Students who participated in the public library summer reading program had better reading skills at the end of third grade and scored higher on the standards test than the students who did not participate.

3. Provide Much-Needed Meals

Children from low-income areas may spend all day at the library because their parents are working and cannot afford to enroll them in a camp or provide childcare. Children who depend on free or reduced-price lunch programs during the school year are at risk of hunger during the summer months. And when kids are hungry, they are not receptive to learning. Many libraries provide meals alongside enriching programs involving craft, games, music, and movies. Lunch at the Library is an organization that “provides library staff with the tools and support they need to develop successful public library summer meal programs that provide children and teens in low-income communities with free and nutritious lunches through the USDA Summer Food Service Program.”

4. Offer STEM/Hands-On Education

According to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), students need 21st-century skills to prepare for college and career. YALSA recommends a broad learning program for summer and a focus on STEM with hands-on activities that capture the interest of children and teenagers. The Orange County Library System in central Florida, offers camps, classes, and programs during the summer with many hands-on learning opportunities. Technology camps offer the opportunities for kids to learn engineering, robotics & electronics, graphic design, audio & video production, sewing, knitting, weaving, space exploration, and more.

5. Enable Teen Volunteer Opportunities

The Collaborative Summer Library Program’s 2017 theme is Build a Better World. One of the best ways teens can build a better world is by giving back to their community through volunteering at their local library during the summer. Teen volunteers at the Kirkwood Public Library in Missouri make flyers, do prep work for activities, help with summer reading programs, and become reading buddies to kids.

Public libraries provide key services to children during the summer months and all year long, often partnering with local schools to make sure students have the resources they need to succeed. They truly make a difference in their communities.

Support public libraries and join the American Library Association’s effort to save library funding. #saveIMLS

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