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John McMillin: Be aware of children’s summer learning slide

John McMillin • Updated Jul 11, 2017 at 6:00 PM

No more teachers, no more books, no more classes…is a phrase you’ve heard at some point in your life. I think most of us sang this happily when summer was finally upon us and we were out of school. 

As a student, we weren’t the least concerned about what amount of education we would retain or lose during the summer. However, as a parent, this became a concern for many, if not all, of us.

United Way Worldwide’s manager of public relations is Christine Sanchez and is responsible for raising awareness of United Way programs, so her recent blog post about summer retention levels may be of interest to many of our local parents. 

She said, “When school’s out, educators worry that kids will fall behind and lose what they learned, experiencing what’s called the summer slide.

“Children from low-wage families slide a lot further, often starting school with a two-month lag in math and a three-month delay in reading. By middle school, these students have lost two full years of learning, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

“The NSLA says summer learning loss is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth, and one of the strongest contributors to the high school dropout rate.

“Boosting summer learning – and working with schools, summer programs, employers and other nonprofits – is part of United Way’s strategy to help children succeed in school, work and life. In June, United Ways rallied together for a Day of Action, a worldwide community-volunteering event that focuses, in part, on preventing summer learning loss.

“And, these dedicated volunteers are already making a huge difference. For example, thousands of children in need are getting new or gently used books to read during their summer break.

“Nearly 7,000 kids in Erie, Pa., received at least one book to take home for the summer, thanks to a book drive led by United Way of Erie County and supported by community businesses and residents. In total, more than 21,000 books have been distributed in the past two years.

“In similar fashion, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona gave free books to 1,700 kindergarten to second-grade students as part of Read on Tucson, an initiative that ensures all children in Pima County will read at grade level by third grade.  Since 2011, the program has donated more than 66,000 books to local students.

“Locally, United Way volunteers have contributed to stuff the bus events to put necessary materials in students’ hands, participated with neighborhood mini-libraries and read to local students. You can do your part to help children keep learning this summer. Share a book with a child in your life and reach out to United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland to find out how you can get involved. Let’s all make sure that when the first day of school comes around, children are engaged and ready to succeed.”

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at john@givetouwwc.org.

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