In its third year, the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge worked with 97 summer providers serving predominantly asset-limited families.
As students returned to school after summer break this year, many of them, especially those from historically disadvantaged student groups, started the school year with a loss of almost three months of reading skills.
But some asset-limited students in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties started the school year in good standing after a summer of reading.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading put on the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge for the third year in a row. The program encourages students to read up to six books while on vacation to curtail the learning loss that otherwise happens each summer.
“We’re trying to make sure they arrive in the fall with the same skills they finish school with in the spring,” said Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The program, funded by The Patterson Foundation, worked with 97 summer providers serving predominantly asset-limited families. The providers, which voluntarily opted into the program, include private businesses, community centers, and county-run programs.
“One thing I appreciate about the Summer Reading Challenge is that we are not strengthening one provider or one type of provider,” Duda said, referring to summer camps. “That will only serve to raise the level for all of our children, and that’s what we want.”
Of the 8,709 students who participated this year, 35% had reading skill gains, while another 39% lost some skills, and 5% lost more than two months of proficiency. (Some were unscored.) The National Summer Learning Association reports that low-income children typically lose two to three months in reading over the summer months.
“What we are tracking is not if students are on grade-level — we’re tracking that they’re not losing reading skills over the summer,” Duda said.
The Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club in Arcadia participated, and its 60 kids, on average, gained over two months of reading proficiency. Overall, in DeSoto County, only 34% of third-graders tested as reading on grade level in 2019.
“All of the organizations in DeSoto County had tremendous results which, to me, shows there is a need for programming and certainly also a great desire for children and providers to have this program to participate in,” Duda said.
This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.