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Together, Rowan Public Library and Rowan-Salisbury Schools combat “summer slide”

By Laurie Lyda

Rowan Public Library

SALISBURY — Did you know that two to three hours of learning per week is needed during summer vacation to prevent learning loss?

Or that two months of reading skills can be lost over a single summer?

Or that when school resumes in the fall, it can take as long as two months for a student’s brain development to get back on track?

To combat this “summer slide,” Rowan Public Library and Rowan-Salisbury Schools have joined forces to offer ways for students to remain engaged with learning, despite the loss of structured school days.

The school system is collaborating with the library to bring the library’s 2017 Summer Reading Program to kindergarten through middle school students. The reading program is organized by age and has three categories: children (infant to rising fifth-graders), teen (rising sixth-graders to seniors) and adult (graduated seniors and 18 and older adults).

This year’s theme is “Build a Better World.”

“It is very exciting to me that we have a seamless integration of the summer reading challenge for all students. In the past, RPL had their challenge and RSS had a different challenge. It was almost as if we were in competition with each other,” said Kelly Feimster, director of instructional programs for Rowan-Salisbury Schools. “Our collaboration puts everyone on the same page, and the community sees that we are all working together for the good of our students. In my opinion, collaboration is always better than working in silos.”

Jennifer Nicholson, Rowan Public Library’s children’s services supervisor, agreed.

“My objectives are always to get kids excited about reading,” she said, “but also to maintain interest and to reduce summer slide. I try to develop a summer reading program that will capture this but also include performers that are entertaining and educational.”

The Summer Reading Program includes a variety of programs and events, from story times to a summer film series for all ages to friendly participation contests accompanied by prizes. For the children’s Summer Reading Program, the emphasis is on keeping children focused on learning, despite the so-called lazy days of summer.

“Families are always looking for ways to get their children involved with reading and the Summer Reading Program allows that,” said Amber Covington, children’s librarian at Rowan Public Library’s South Rowan Regional branch. “With interactive story times and performers, children will be able to relate the library to a fun, engaging place. To keep their interests, reading needs to be an experience.”

The collaboration also widens the physical reach of the Summer Reading Program.

“As we are reaching families in their communities, we are able to serve those with limited transportation. With media centers that are open this summer, students of all ages will be able to win prizes by visiting a library within their neighborhood. This increases the chance a child will be able to read a book during the summer,” Covington said.

Accessibility has been an important goal for Nicholson.

“We can ensure that every child in the Rowan-Salisbury school system will have complete access to RPL’s Summer Reading Program,” she said. “They will have access to logs and registration forms, and all can be submitted at any RPL branch or RSS location.”

The program is also developing an interdisciplinary element: Beyond the diverse programs designed to stimulate different learning types and accommodate a wide range of interests, the Summer Reading Program now includes a math component, which will be test-piloted at RPL locations.

Coloring sheets will require children to solve math problems to figure out the color that they should use. These sheets can then be submitted each week for a prize drawing.

“I’m really excited about the addition of the math exercise,” Nicholson said. “I hope it will help teachers and students in the long run.”

Rowan-Salisbury Schools will distribute information folders to its elementary and middle school students. The folders are printed with “reading tips for parents as well as monthly calendars with family ideas on them,” said Feimster. “Inside the folders, students and parents will find the challenges from RPL, along with their instructions, and a flier listing online resources that are available.”

For students who register at an Rowan Public Library branch, staff will keep a record of the reading activities that each completes, and local library participants will have the opportunity to win prizes and attend programs. Those who register at one of the school media centers that will be open this summer can win the prizes available at those locations.

Covington hopes families will take advantage of the Summer Reading Program, which is free and open to the public. She also looks forward to seeing students and their families exploring RPL’s locations and learning more about the resources each library branch offers.

“We hope each family member will be a registered library card holder by the end of the summer,” she said.

Hopes are running high for the success of this summer’s partnership. Feimster hopes to see “more collaboration in the future, resulting in better challenges and resources for our students.” Nicholson wants summer reading to continue to evolve and offer a “little something for everyone – and maybe if there is a subject that a child doesn’t like, they might discover something exciting about it through one of our challenges or events. I hope to make all subjects fun for students.”

At the heart of the initiative is the desire to better help students and young readers. Feimster encourages people to read with the children in their lives.

“It only takes 15 to 20 minutes a day to build better readers and a better world,” she said.

To learn more about the RPL and RSS summer reading collaboration, call 704-216-8234 or visit www.RowanPublicLibrary.org. Teens and adults are also encouraged to contact their nearest RPL branch to learn more about summer reading activities for their age groups.

Laurie Lyda is the branch supervisor for the Rowan Public Library South Branch.

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