It’s no surprise that the summer slide and how to avoid it are major topics of concern for educators and parents. Researchers have found that a student’s learning environment outside of school over the summer months may have more of an impact on his academic success up through high school than it does over the course of an entire school year.
One of the very best things a student can do to continue learning and promote literacy development over the summer is to read. But what if there was no way for a student to gain access to books in the summer or throughout the year? What if there is no nearby open library or Barnes & Noble or used book store? Libraries in underserved communities often lack the funding for librarians, books and other necessary supplies or they can only afford to provide limited hours. The same goes for many public school libraries. Although it’s hard to believe for so many of us who take these book resources for granted, communities with no easy access to books do exist. These areas are called “book deserts.”
What are communities doing to eliminate book deserts?
JetBlue started a reading program in 2011 to give children access to books and encourage reading. In 2015, the company placed vending machines filled with new books in a grocery store and church in an underserved neighborhood of Washington D.C. to provide children with free books. Five more vending machines were placed in communities in Detroit, Michigan this summer. Close to two million books have been donated to the program so far, and anyone can to go to the Soar With Reading website to vote for the next city to receive donated books for distribution from JetBlue.
In 2009, Little Free Libraries started popping up and have now become popular all over the world. These little stand-alone libraries are boxes housing books that anyone at any age can borrow and exchange on the “take a book, give a book” policy.
A Little Free Library in Pittsburgh
Little Free Libraries (LFL) is helping to supply books to communities with struggling schools. According to the nonprofit’s Director of Marketing and Communications, “Impoverished and rural areas are often book deserts. In Los Angeles, out of more than 1,300 district schools only 100 have a librarian. In Philadelphia, only 5% of schools have a librarian. Many of these schools don’t even have a supply of books that kids can take home to read at their leisure. Kids need books. For all that’s invested in getting kids to perform at their grade level, if they don’t even have books, we have to make changes.”
Help spread the word that book deserts do exist and look for ways to get books into the hands of all young learners. If they do not have access to quality reading materials outside of school, this can be detrimental to their literacy development, their academic success and to the whole society.
How are you or your school district working to provide access to books for students who need them the most? Let us know on the GrapeSEED Facebook page!