Op-Ed

Children’s minds don’t take a summer break. Keep reading together.

REAL men sought to read to elementary school kids

Fayette county public schools are seeking 300 volunteers to take part in the REAL (Read. Excel. Achieve. Lead.) program, which seeks to encourage men to read in elementary school classrooms. Lansdowne Elementary School is the first school in Fayet
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Fayette county public schools are seeking 300 volunteers to take part in the REAL (Read. Excel. Achieve. Lead.) program, which seeks to encourage men to read in elementary school classrooms. Lansdowne Elementary School is the first school in Fayet

The Kentucky Department of Education recently announced the launch of a summertime reading initiative called READ Up: Stop the Summer Slide.

The effort will help build community awareness about the importance of parents and caregivers continuing to read with their children when school is out for the summer. Bravo!

Let’s face it, reading when school is out of session may not be a top priority, but when reading takes a back seat in the summer, school-age children can lose months of critical skills. These abilities must be relearned at the beginning of the new school year, taking away valuable time students otherwise would spend learning new content or developing more complex capabilities.

This loss of skills – called the “summer slide” – can accumulate and result in a significant gap in learning by the later elementary school years. Teachers do incredible work, and students themselves make a great effort to catch up.

However, trying to regain lost proficiency while trying to learn new reading skills is not easy for everyone. Research shows the consequences impact not only children but communities in general. According to Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters; A Kids Count Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who struggle in reading often fall behind in their education, leading to higher dropout rates and greater behavioral and social problems.

While the Kentucky Department of Education initiative is commendable, we need to be aware that this problem isn’t one for schools alone to solve. It is up to all of us: students, parents, caregivers, community members, everyone. The time to act is now.

As you enjoy all of what makes summer so extraordinary in our great state, make some room for reading together. Bring books with you wherever you go, visit your local library, borrow favorite titles from friends, and even consider donating a book or two for less fortunate children. As the newly launched campaign says, a child’s mind is always eager to learn.

When parents and caregivers read with children 20 minutes every day, it helps strengthen reading skills that are essential to success in school and beyond. Reading with our children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and other special young ones in our lives throughout the summer and every day of the year has a lasting, positive effect.

I can still remember sitting at the kitchen table on summer evenings with my dad reading the afternoon newspaper, and my siblings reading the encyclopedias that he and my mom sacrificed a portion of their small salaries from their work at the cotton mills to buy. It was in those moments that we were strengthening our bond as a family, and almost without noticing, we were also learning vocabulary, language, grammar, communication, social and emotional skills, and so much more. We were also developing a love of reading that I embrace to this day.

Let’s give all Kentucky children the lifelong gift of reading. Have you read with a child today?

Rufus Friday, CEO of Rufus Friday Consulting, is the former publisher of the Herald-Leader.

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