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Schools are Almost Out: Beware Summer Learning Gap

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 By Mike CliffordContact
May 26, 2009

Las Vegas, NV – Many Nevada school kids are counting down to the final bell. Although they have earned a vacation from the classroom, experts say that should not include a complete break from books.

Children should do some reading this summer, advises Betsy Johnson, youth services director at the Paseo Verde Library in Henderson. Some students go to school year-round in Nevada, she says, but it's important for those who don't to include reading in their summer activities.

"The concern is that if children who go to a nine-month school don't read over the summer, when they come back in the fall they are behind and they have to catch up."

Most libraries across the state offer summer reading programs, and many provide prizes as incentives to keep students reading. She says the libraries now track minutes, rather than the number of books youngsters read.

"That helps children who read slowly. They don't feel like 'Oh, I'll never be able to read 20 books,' because it's all timed, and they're spending the same time reading as a child who reads very quickly."

The Harry Potter books, which are quite long, were a big reason the library switched from counting the number of books read to tracking the time kids spend reading, Johnson explains. Some children were just reading a lot of picture books, she says, so libraries wanted to give students who tackle longer books an equal chance to complete the program.

Children who enroll in the summer reading program at Henderson Libraries can record on the Internet the time they spend reading, so they can participate even if they are out of town for part of the summer.

Research shows learning loss can be greater for low-income children, who may not have access to summer learning programs. More information is available at www.summerlearning.org.

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