Maybe you lazed away the days at the pool or beach, hit up the golf course or went to an amusement park. For many of us, summer is a time to kick back and relax.
But at United Way Suncoast, summer is the time we work to help children avoid the "summer slide," a term educators use to describe a learning regression that occurs when there’s no school.
Without strong summer programs, they may lose up to two months of skills and knowledge they learned during the previous school year. The work also remains critical given the decline brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Every district in the UWS region saw a decline in reading scores from 2019-20 to 2020-21.
Your donations helped us support thousands of kids across our five-county region with a range of reading programs and summer camps.
In Bradenton, UWS’s La Mirada Reading Room hosted a six-week Summer Reading Camp. Children ages 4-11, received 140 hours of educational and social emotional programming. They surpassed the Summer Reading Challenge to read at least six leveled reading books.
UWS partnered with The Ringling Museum, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center and the Early Learning Coalition’s Book Bus to heighten the La Mirada effort with weekly enrichment sessions The site also served as a Summer Breakspot distributing daily lunches to the children.
A second Reading Room opened in July at Bradenton Village Apartments, hosting guided play sessions for children under 5 and their parents. The moms and dads received home learning kits to take with them and extend the learning into their households.
“We are reaching our earliest learners and supporting parents as the first and most important teachers in their child’s life,” said Andrea Doggett - UWS Director of Early Learning and Community Partnerships. “A mix of structured and creative play promotes children reaching their developmental milestones and building pre-literacy skills for future school success.”
As we move into the new school year, La Mirada will return to 0-5 early childhood opportunities and after school tutoring sessions for children Kindergarten through third grade. At Bradenton Village, recruitment and expansion of the program will happen to reach more families with these language and literacy rich resources.
In addition, parents will continue to receive guidance about teaching their kids, as well as referrals to food distributions, employment/benefits assistance and vaccination opportunities.
In Pinellas and Hillsborough, United Way Suncoast worked with 10 partners who provided 20 summer camps across the area. UWS provided more than 3,000 books to partner summer camps as part of a bridge book curriculum program. It also awarded 616 summer camp scholarships at a cost of $449,803. For the students who have adverse reading struggles, UWS provided 13 highly-skilled tutors.
This was the 10th year United Way Suncoast addressed summer slide issues, helping kids avoid a learning loss of 2-3 months. In those 10 years, 81% of the students who received a bridge book maintained or grew their level of reading. The kids who received added tutoring have seen a literacy gain of seven months and 97% have sustained those improved skills.
United Way Suncoast’s Reading All-Stars program, which allows students and families to read along with a tutor in person or virtually, carried through the summer and will continue throughout the school year. The program, which is designed to strategically and thoughtfully support elementary age students’ early-literacy success, continues to be rewarding for both student and volunteer.
It’s just a lot of fun to work with children, to get their sense of humor and to be surprised by their way of thinking, their thought processes and their understanding of human nature,” said Reading All-Stars volunteer Judy Szink. “I’m just delighted by all of it. I get rewarded every time I work with them and see them achieve and see them be proud of themselves for moving forward.”
For the 2020-21 school year, Reading All-Stars recognized a significant 14-month increase in conventional reading among its students from pretest to post assessment. Regardless of grade levels, (K-5) 97% of conventional readers showed an increase in their instructional reading level and 86% attained their grade level in their reading at posttest.