Schools and libraries urge kids to read for fun and to avoid "summer slide"

CINCINNATI – Long summer days at the neighborhood pool or playing video games may give students a chance to recharge their batteries for the coming school year, but it they also can rob them of a full month of learning, studies show.

But don't cart your kids off to summer school just yet. Greater Cincinnati schools and libraries are offering students many ways to keep their vocabularies growing and their minds engaged, balanced with feeling like they're still on break.

"One of the pieces is to make it fun and engaging," said Andrea Faulkner, Cincinnati Public Schools Language Arts Curriculum Manager.

If a student loves basketball, he can read a biography of a basketball star, about the history of basketball or any other aspect of the game that sparks his interest.

A student who is interested in the "Harry Potter" series can read a book with her mom and then watch the corresponding movie with her, giving the student the chance to analyze the differences in plot, what was left out of the movie, Faulkner said.

Many school programs orbit around The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's extensive summer activities for children and adults.

The library's Summer Learning Program  typically serves 40,000 children and adults, enticing children to read books with prizes of books, toys, color-changing pencils, and teens and adults with coupons for free food at Gold Star Chili, electronic device giveaways and other rewards.

This year, the library is collaborating with Summer Camp Reading  to offer intensive reading help to incoming third graders at seven branches – Bond Hill, College Hill, Corryville, Northside, Pleasant Ridge, Price Hill and Westwood – serving up to 12 kids at each location with a six-week program for four hours a day.

It's in response to Ohio's recently enacted law that requires nearly all third graders to read at grade level or be held back until they catch up. Numerous studies indicate that a child who is reading at grade level in third grade has a better chance of succeeding in successive grades and graduating from high school than a third grader who is behind.

Funding for the reading program came from an anonymous donor, said Diane Smiley, the library's youth services and programming coordinator, and the students hail from CPS schools but also Catholic and other private schools near library branches.

"We have fun, hands-on learning at all 41 branches," Smiley said, and some branches host free brain camps  involving story reading, science experiments and themed crafts.

In honor of National Summer Reading day, the library is hosting events at the main library and several branches. 

Beth Mendez of Cincinnati's Westwood neighborhood stopped by the library's booth on Fountain Square at lunchtime Thursday with her children Elias, 5, and Grace, 4, who signed up for the summer reading program. Until now, Mendez said she's been handling the summer reading on the home front for her two learning readers, spending at least 15 minutes a day reading to each of her kids and having them each read to her for 15 minutes. They're big fans of the Westwood branch of the library, she said. 

Schools and school districts throughout the Tri-State employ differing strategies for encouraging students to keep reading and learning throughout the summer. Here's a sampling:

Mariemont High School: Students in all grades will read Conor Grennan's "Little Princes," a nonfiction account of one man's experience in war-torn Nepal, offering teachers and students opportunities to interact in multiple ways after reading the book together. The book is available to students in electronic form through the high school library and at the Cincinnati/Hamilton County library and on CD.

St. Ursula Villa, a private Catholic school serving preschoolers through 8th graders, rewards students with two out-of-uniform day passes for every workbook in math, grammar and writing that they complete. Kindergartners through fifth graders can choose from four or five books in each grade ("Biscuit Series" is one for kindergarten; "The Lost Years of Merlin is a fifth grade choice), while all sixth graders must read "The Outsiders" and seventh graders must read "The Pearl."

Cincinnati Public Schools has no district-wide reading list, but specific schools do. Its K-5 Summer Stars program focuses on children who need extra help reading, and its Rosy Readers program, which goes throughout the school year, is active during the summer for any children wishing to log on. "One of the best resources we have in this city and county is the public library," Faulkner said. "They have audio and digital books that are readily available."

Lakota Local School District Honors English students have a reading list that bends toward classics like "The Crucible," "Old Man and the Sea" and "Our Town." There are no common reading lists for the general student population, according to spokesman Randy Oppenheimer, but "we also have students participating in summer school, summer credit

recovery programs, a new summer program to help students whose promotion to fourth grade is potentially affected by the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, and a summer program for English as a Second Language students," he said. "We’re thrilled every year when school starts to see how many students have continued to progress over the summer, through the reading they’ve done as well as other activities."

Carpe Diem Aiken, a CPS-sponsored charter school, required students whose standardized Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) scores were deficient in reading or math to participate in an intensive two-week program earlier this month. "We left open online Remediation Reading and Basic Math courses in Edgenuity for our students who struggle to work on throughout the summer," said Tyree Gaines, principal. The school coordinated summer reading efforts with the public library and will recognize participants in the fall.

Campbell County Schools middle-schoolers are asked to read a book of their choice on a suitable reading level and to complete a reading log, said Julie Kuhnhein, a Teaching and Learning Leader. High schoolers are asked to read one book and complete an assignment on it from a list of classics like "Of Mice and Men." "Additional summer assignments are given for Advanced Placement courses in Language, Literature, US History, Chemistry, Biology and Studio Art," she said. Campbell County students can also access an online learning tool called Compass, and four schools are using a federal community learning centers grant to directly address summer slide through academic enrichment, hands-on learning,  college & career readiness, physical activity, and weekly field trips.

Wyoming City Schools hosts its Science Olympiad camp the week of June 23, and high school students are given a list of recommended books . "Our primary and middle school students receive suggested reading lists… and students are encouraged to read at the local Wyoming Recreation Center camp through a “pages for pizza” incentive program," said Susanna Max, Wyoming spokesperson. "In addition, Wyoming High School offers summer camp for students who need to complete credits."

Boone County Public Schools coordinates summer reading with the Boone County Public Library with one age-appropriate title per grade, like "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" for kindergarten, "Waiting for the Magic," for third grade and "Same Sun Here" for fifth grade. The library hosts events around each book throughout the summer.


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