How to combat summer learning loss | SierraSun.com

How to combat summer learning loss

Laura Abbey Brown and Heidi Bushway Verkler
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; For adults, a successful vacation is often measured by how many books are read. However, for many children this is not the case.

Unfortunately, summer vacation can be a time when little reading happens. The books are closed and not opened and#8212; or at least often and#8212; until the fall. When children donand#8217;t read or participate in educational activities over the summer, they can experience learning loss or and#8220;summer slide.and#8221;

Research has shown that summer learning loss has a disproportionate impact on low-income students, particularly in reading. Low-income children can lose an average of two months of learning over summer break according to studies by the RAND Corporation and the Review of Educational Research.

To combat this issue teachers and volunteers from Truckee and Glenshire Elementary as well as Sierra Expeditionary Learning School offered neighborhood based reading programs over summer vacation.

This program is one of the strategies included in the nationally recognized Tahoe Truckee Reads plan to improve grade level literacy in our community.

Each week, teachers traveled to targeted neighborhoods and conducted fun, interactive reading sessions. The outreach locations included Donner Creek Mobile Home Park, Henness Flat Apartments, Sierra Village Apartments, Truckee Pines Apartments, La Bamba Mobile Home Park and following Catholic mass at the Assumption Church in Truckee.

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Teacher Heidi Bushway Verkler (Mrs. BV) and instructional assistant, Dorothy Gadsby, from Truckee Elementary School visited Sierra Village Apartments and Donner Creek Trailer Park twice a week for two-hour periods, offering twenty-two hours of reading instruction and activities this summer.

Children ranging in ages from three to thirteen listened to stories and wrote in journals where they were encouraged to write three to five sentences on a given topic. They participated in art projects as well as word building activities. Other activities included book discussions and orally describing their artwork.

The younger children worked on alphabet puzzles, putting pictures into sequential order, sight word games and basic phonemic awareness.

When students were asked what they enjoyed most about the neighborhood reading program their responses included hearing stories, reading with their friends, doing art projects and receiving books that they could take home!

Thanks to support from Truckee Noon Rotary, Truckee Sunrise Rotary and Excellence in Education, all students participating in the reading programs received book bags and were able to select books at their reading and interest level. Books for the program were donated from Scholastic as well as collected from school and community book drives.

and#8220;I think the reading program is a great thing to get kids on board, to get them out of their houses and to learn something,and#8221; shared 13-year-old Carlos about the neighborhood reading programs.

Forty-four children attended the Sierra Village Apartments sessions and thirty-seven participated at Donner Creek Trailer Park. Over the six weeks, the kids had dozens of stories and poems read to them.

The content themes varied weekly and covered topics such as dreams, the Olympics, fish, bears and Lake Tahoe. They went on small walking field trips exploring and observing their local natural environment. The outings wrapped up with activities where they wrote and spoke about their findings.

Mrs. BV reflected on her experience with the program and shared that it was very rewarding going into the neighborhoods and reading with the kids.

and#8220;In fact,and#8221; she remarked, and#8220;one day a few boys were lurking in the distance, wondering what was going on. We pulled out the watercolors and the boys suddenly were interested in participating. At the end of the session that day, one boy asked if we were going to do this next summer! I responded by telling him to stick around and weand#8217;d see what we could do!and#8221;

and#8212; Laura Abbey Brown is executive director of Excellence in Education Foundation; Heidi Bushway Verkler is a teacher at Truckee Elementary School.