Want to know what the gang at the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is doing over summer vacation? It involves learning, sharing, arts, baseball, and lots of fun. And we are talking about a big group of collaborators—the Association of Florida Teaching Artists (AFTA), the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and many other arts groups, the Manatee and Sarasota library systems and Early Learning Coalitions, the Manatee and Sarasota county schools, summer camp providers, VPK summer programs, and our boys of summer—the Tampa Bay Rays.
The reason so many awesome friends are getting together this summer is that learning loss over vacation has dire consequences, particularly for children from low-income families. This is called “summer slide,” and, while that may sound like fun, it isn’t.
For more than 100 years, researchers have examined this phenomenon. When school doors close for summer vacation, many children have little to no opportunities for learning. More than half of the achievement gap between lower-income kids and their higher-income peers is due to unequal access to summer-learning activities. The summer slide can lead to dropping out of high school and never exploring postsecondary education.
How are we tackling that this summer?
We are training 15 teaching artists and 100 summer-camp counselors about the importance of summer learning. Volunteers, teaching artists, camp counselors, parents, and others who are devoted to the Campaign will provide arts-integrated summer activities, reading contests where winners receive prizes from the library, book awards to children who tally more than 12 hours of reading time, surprise awards at summer camps for the most voracious readers, an end of summer celebration, and “Reading with the Rays” where kids who read for 24 hours over the summer receive two tickets to a Rays game.
All of these collaborators have shown leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture — key ingredients to strengthen the efforts of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and its commitment to creating a movement that works and has lasting impact on children, their families, and our community.