05 June 2019
Public Libraries Make a Difference: 5 Key Benefits of Summer Education Programs
Public libraries perform a key role in the education and development of young learners through summer education programs.
Summer vacation threatens to reverse many of the achievement gains that students—and teachers—worked so hard to reach during the previous school year. Low-income students are especially vulnerable to the "summer slide." According to the Young Adult Library Services Association
, low-income students "lose more than two months in math skills and reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains." Summer education programs can stop the summer slide
Public libraries that offer dynamic summer educations provide these five key benefits:
1. Foster a Love of Reading
The Collaborative Summer Library Program’s 2019 theme is A Universe of Stories with a theme of space and science!
To foster a lifelong love of reading, summer reading programs across the United States offer incentives for kids to explore the universe of reading during the summer. Libraries such as the Los Angeles Public Library,
the New York Public Library
, and the District of Columbia Public Library
are encouraging kids to read multiple books by offering them a chance to earn points that they can redeem for fun prizes.
2. Close the Achievement Gap
Summer educational programs help reduce the achievement gap experienced during the summer months. This is especially critical for low-income children who may have no other opportunities available. In 2010, a study carried out at Dominican University
• Students who participated in the public library summer reading program scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those students who did not participate and they gained in other ways as well.
• Students who participated in the public library summer reading program had better reading skills at the end of third grade and scored higher on the standards test than the students who did not participate.
3. Provide Much-Needed Meals
Children from low-income areas may spend all day at the library because their parents are working and cannot afford to enroll them in a camp or provide childcare. Children who depend on free or reduced-price lunch programs during the school year are at risk of hunger during the summer months. And when kids are hungry, they are not receptive to learning. Many libraries provide meals alongside enriching programs involving craft, games, music, and movies. Lunch at the Library
is an organization that “provides library staff with the tools and support they need to develop successful public library summer meal programs that provide children and teens in low-income communities with free and nutritious lunches through the USDA Summer Food Service Program.”
4. Offer STEM/Hands-On Education
According to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)
, students need 21st-century skills to prepare for college and career. YALSA recommends a broad learning program for summer and a focus on STEM with hands-on activities that capture the interest of children and teenagers. Also this approach is a perfect pairing with this year's theme of space and science! The Warren County Public Library
in Kentucky offers STEM, Coding, Theatre, and Air & Space Summer Camps. The Houston Public Library has Camp STREAM
where kids and teens can participate in interesting learning activities each day of the week during the summer. STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math.
5. Enable Teen Volunteer Opportunities
Summer is the perfect time for teenagers to gain experience and give back to their communities through volunteerism. The public library is a great place for teenagers to give back to their community. Reading programs, activities, and events make the library a hub of activity during the summer months. This is a chance for teenagers to make an impact in their community by assisting with logging points for book reading, assisting with hands-on crafts, reading stories to kids, and more. A summer learning program can reach many kids and their families when they are equipped with enough volunteers.
Public libraries provide key services to children during the summer months and all year long, often partnering with local schools to make sure students have the resources they need to succeed. They truly make a difference in their communities.
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