Summer Learning Programs 2016

girl hula-hoops while reading a book
A young patron enjoys two of her favorite summertime activities.

Ah, summer: a time for kids and teens to relax, get outside, spend time with friends, and enjoy a break from school. It’s also a great opportunity for them (and adults, too!) to take advantage of fun learning activities offered by informal education programs at public libraries, museums, and nonprofits.

Public library staff are in full swing across the state gearing up for their summer programs, and it’s going to be a great summer! Colorado is part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), a comprehensive program that selects a theme each year that participating public libraries can feature. The theme for 2016 is Health, Fitness and Wellness, a natural fit for Colorado’s active lifestyle (and of course the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory!). It also highlights the need for kids to eat healthily and get plenty of exercise, so it’s a great theme for libraries to incorporate into their programming and collections not only for this summer, but year-round. Library staff seeking resources on the theme can go to the Colorado State Library’s Summer Reading Materials page.

Many of Colorado’s libraries offer a traditional summer program in which patrons receive incentives after reading an amount set by the library. Some libraries are creating other models for their summer programs that are project-based, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) oriented, open-ended, or broader summer learning focused; many focus on reading and learning as intrinsic motivations rather than giving prizes for reading a certain amount.

Parents recognize a difference in their children’s enjoyment, reading skills, and amount of reading for pleasure when their kids participate in summer library programs. As shown in a 2014 survey in Colorado, parents whose children participated in their local library program recognized measurable increases in these areas.

LRS summer reading infographic
Click the image to see the full report.

Learning activities, paired with choice reading, go a long way toward preventing summer slide—the tendency of students to lose the gains they made during the school year over the long summer break. Research shows that summer slide is much more pronounced in children from low-income families that have fewer resources for enrichment activities such as travel; it also shows that summer slide is cumulative, causing kids in poverty to fall significantly behind over time simply due to summer slide.

kids getting books from a librarian in a city park
Since 2004, the Pueblo City-County Library has offered Books in the Park, a program that brings books and fun programming to parks that serve free lunches to kids through the Summer Food Service Program.

While reading for fun over the summer is a very effective way to help prevent summer slide, the very children it benefits the most often can’t come to the library. Through partnering and outreach programs, libraries can provide reading materials and programs to children experiencing poverty.

Summer is almost here, and while you have some busy months ahead, know that you are making a significant difference to the kids and families in your communities. Have a great summer!

Cover image: Longmont Public Library encourages kids to create projects of any type and on any subject they like, such as this engineering creation, during the summer; the library then displays each project at the end of the summer.

Amy Hitchner
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