When you think about kids and summer, the images that come to mind are those of riding bikes and melting popsicles and running through the sprinklers—but there is another side to summer, especially for low-income kids.
Over summer break, children lose critical academic skills, especially in reading. This disproportionately affects low-income students, who tend to lose up to two months of grade level equivalency in reading during the summer, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains. This achievement gap quickly adds up, leaving low-income youth less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.
I bet hunger also doesn’t spring to mind when you imagine the summertime, but for 22 million kids, it unfortunately does. That’s the number of kids who participated in the free or reduced-price National School Lunch Program in 2015. Unfortunately, only about 17 percent of the same kids access the Summer Food Service Program. So what happens to the rest?
Millions of kids aren’t eating healthy food or reading at all in the summer, and consequently they are falling behind.
That’s where we all come in.
Reading to children, engaging outdoor play, and ensuring kids have adequate meals during the summer can have a big impact on reducing summer learning loss.
You can volunteer at the library, or donate to Amazing Grace Food Pantry or Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries. Participate in a book drive. Read with a child in your life. Grow extra veggies in your garden and donate them. If you are able to encourage your own child’s learning this summer, visit the library, keep a summer journal, plant a garden, or volunteer together. If you have younger kids, visit one of the 10 Born Learning Trails in Middlesex County. A Born Learning Trail provides young children with an opportunity to get active, have fun and boost language and literacy skills. The trail features age-appropriate, simple-to-construct activities that can be easily followed with the help of an adult. For a list of locations in Middlesex County, visit www.middlesexunitedway.org/bornlearning.
If you are looking for a summer meal site, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.
It starts with something as simple as books in hand and bellies full of food. You have the power to change a young kid's life. Together, let’s turn summer slide into summer success.
-Kevin Wilhelm, President & CEO