Providence based nonprofit brings summer reading out into the community.
Summer. There’s no better time to be a kid; warm sunny days filled with swimming, friends, and free time. Ask children what they like most about the summer, and most will answer — no school.
Unfortunately, during this time away from the classroom, all children are at risk of losing up to two months of math skills, while students from lower income households may also lose two to three months of reading skills. By fifth grade, children affected by summer learning loss can fall 2.5 – 3 years behind their peers — but there is hope. Nonprofit organizations, such as the Providence Community Library (PCL), are working hard to ensure this doesn’t happen.
In 2016, PCL received United Way of Rhode Island’s (UWRI) Scaling Up for Success. This three-year grant allowed them to create Summer Reading in the Schoolyard, a mobile library program that brings books, technology, and even a public-school math teacher to children at 10 Providence area elementary schools. “We are taking the summer reading program directly into the community,” explains PCL’s Youth Services Coordinator Cheryl Space. “Our goal is to help strengthen young minds, and hopefully enrich their lives in the process.”
During their first summer, the program attracted more than 4,800 children over an eight-week period. This year, with some welcomed improvements, they are on track to repeat, if not surpass, last year’s success. With the addition of Wi-Fi hotspots, they’re now able to issue library cards, check books out, and accept returns. Space explains, “The UWRI grant has allowed us to be a full-service library.”
PCL understands the importance of summer learning, but without support they would be unable to make the impact that they are. “Prior to the grant, all we had was the bus and a few empty book crates,” explains Space. “Without United Way of Rhode Island, Summer Reading in the Schoolyard would have never happened.” UWRI continues to partner with organizations, such as PCL, that focus on increasing summer learning opportunities, because Rhode Island’s future is only as secure as the investment we are willing to make in our children.
By: Jason Boulay, UWRI Communication Coordinator