TAMPA, Fla. – (June 17, 2014) – According to the U.S. Department of Education, a student in poverty loses approximately two months of reading achievement every year over summer break. On average, middle and high income students don’t experience the same reading loss due to greater access to summer learning opportunities such as camps, educational activities and books, which reinforce reading and language skills.
Summer learning loss, also known as “Summer Slide,” has the greatest cumulative effect on students from low-income families where children can fall three to five years behind in reading by the end of elementary school. Students who continue to struggle to read at the end of fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, which can lead to life-long financial struggle. Research also shows a lack of education is often at the root of the cycle of generational poverty.
United Way Suncoast’s Early Literacy Initiative (ELI) supports children by helping to build the necessary reading skills essential to a child’s continued growth and success in school. This initiative aims to increase year-round reading activity for children up to 12 years old to improve reading skills and prepare them for further academic success. Through its Summer Care program, children are granted scholarships to quality summer programs emphasizing literacy with daily structured reading lessons, as well as reinforcing basic skills in writing, math, science, social studies and fitness. The curriculum includes pre- and post-program evaluations of the students’ literacy levels. In addition, students with the greatest literacy deficiencies are provided intensive reading tutoring with pre-service education students from St. Petersburg College and USF Sarasota-Manatee.
In 2013, every student in the Summer Care program was reading below grade level at the beginning of the summer. By the end of the program, the majority of students showed significant improvement with 69 percent reading at grade level. In addition, 97 percent of those receiving intensive tutoring maintained or increased their overall reading levels.
“Our early literacy initiatives and programs have helped thousands of children become more proficient readers,” said United Way Suncoast CEO, Diana Baker. “This year, more children than ever are spending their summers in a reading-rich environment thanks to our Summer Care program and partners.”
Baker says every parent and caregiver can make an impact to help a child in their life become a more proficient reader and offers the following tips to ensure children are as engaged as possible in whatever they read this summer:
• When shopping, build language skills and engage your child by reading signs aloud and asking questions about surroundings such as, “Where is the red apple?” or “Show me the green shoe.”
• Provide access to books and reading materials at home and on the go. The library, bookstore and online reading sites are helpful places to find free or inexpensive reading material.
• Introduce your child to new environments such as parks, community fairs or other locations where he or she can observe new surroundings. Talk about what you see and ask your child to describe some of the shapes or colors in the area.
• Reading aloud is an essential component to language development. Whether it’s a label at the grocery store, a menu at a restaurant or an article on your phone, find the opportunity to read with your child.
For more suggestions and simple strategies to build early literacy, visit www.unitedwaysuncoast.org or call 813-274-0900.
About United Way Suncoast
United Way Suncoast staff, volunteers and trusted community partners serve DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties by developing, enhancing and implementing services and programs to help create a stronger, more vibrant community. United Way Suncoast is changing the community’s story by helping to break the cycle of generational poverty through educational programs that give children the skills to succeed and help adults achieve long-term financial stability, as well as provide support services to those who need it most. For more information, visit www.unitedwaysuncoast.org or call 941.366.2686 (Sarasota area) or 813.274.0900 (Tampa Bay area). To find Suncoast-area volunteer opportunities, visit www.volunteersuncoast.org. #ReadUnited