Opening School Libraries Slows the Summer Slide

A MiddleWeb Blog

Summer slide is real. Many students suffer a regression in learning during the summer months because they lack access to academic language and stimulation. One way we can help keep our students from regressing severely is to provide healthy and easy access to books.

We often suggest our students visit the library during the summer months. And yes, public libraries do offer summer programs and books for our students. However, for many students, including English learners, the public library is not always the best option, especially if it’s the only option.

But what if WE opened our school libraries for a some scheduled days during the summer? Might this create easier access to more books for ALL students?

Here are 3 reasons why our school libraries should open their doors during the summer for student readers:

1. Many students don’t have good access to the public library.

It may sound so simple and in theory it sounds great: Go to the public library. However, for many students the public library just isn’t an option. It could be far from home, possibly not in walking distance. Personally, as a child, if the public library was my only option, it would have been difficult for our family.

We only had one car and my dad worked a lot. Even if we did have another car, my mom didn’t have a driver’s license. We needed a place near home. Somewhere close, within walking distance. For newly arrived immigrants and other families, having access to a library close to home is necessary!

2. The school library is a comfortable and familiar place.

Opening up the school library during the summer provides students and families a familiar place to come to. This is important for immigrants and newcomers. The school library can be a comfortable, safe place to find books and resources. Not to mention, this also builds a relationship between families and the school. If a family is new to the US, they are already having to learn about the community and way of life in the country. Opening up our school library doors makes one less thing they have to worry about.

3. The school library offers an abundance of kid-friendly books.

Students tend to regress during the summer. They leave at the end of the year having learned and grown so much. But without practicing reading, writing, and speaking using academic vocabulary, many return in August or September with less than what they left us with. One of the greatest factors is access to books, lots of books.

The ones that suffer the most in this case are our students living in poverty and our students who are new to the country. Why? Our students living in poverty are less likely to have books at home, to go on summer vacations or summer camps with their peers, or to have parents at home during the day. Our newly arrived immigrant students may not know about all of the resources that are in their community. Their families may not have acclimated yet to their new surroundings. And many may have limited access to social interactions with peers.

How to make it happen

You might be thinking…Who will manage the library while it’s open? Talk with your administrator and see about creative ways to open the library during the summer months. Enlist parent and student volunteers. Many high school aged students need volunteer hours. Train a few and let them take leadership. Some high schoolers may even want to hold read alouds for younger students. This is a win, win!

Even if the school library is open one day a week or twice monthly for half a day, it’s better than not being open at all. Think of all those books sitting on shelves all summer long. What a waste of knowledge, money, and resources. Even if one kid reads one book…it’s worth it.

Recently I posed this question on Twitter. I was really shocked by the responses.

Only 9% are opened in the summer. 78% CLOSED. Here are a few of the comments:

The first comment really surprised me and made me ask this next question.

Here are some more comments that were interesting:

The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is “Why are we closing the library?” Is there a reason it can’t be opened a day or two a month? Is it a reason that cannot be overcome?

Does your school have a library, and if so, does it close during the summer? What are your thoughts on opening it up a few days in the summer? Please comment below.

Valentina Gonzalez

Valentina Gonzalez (@ValentinaESL) is a Professional Development Specialist for English Language Learners in Katy, Texas. Her 20 years as an educator includes teaching in the classroom as well as serving as an ESL specialty teacher and district program facilitator. She enjoys advocating for ELLs by blogging, presenting at local and state conferences, and sharing resources with teachers.

2 Responses

  1. Julianne Filicetti says:

    Great ideas. I wish every school library would at least let kids take out one book for summer reading. Many schools, even elementary schools, are now investing funds in computers for school libraries. Some HS libraries are already re-envisioned as “learning commons” which are just big study halls without books. They took out the books and put in more wi-fi, desktop computers and seating. Students typically use 2-3 electronic devices simultaneously while working in the one I frequent. I find it terribly misguided and sad.

  2. Kendra says:

    Our libraries are closed in the summer, however In my district, we allow the kids to pick up to 6 books to take home over the summer. They are limited to paperback but they are not penalized for not returning them in the fall.

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