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July 29, 2016

Reading Partners Seattle community comes together to beat the summer slide

By: Maya Festinger, site coordinator, Reading Partners Seattle

Summer slide? Don’t let these light, breezy words fool you. “Summer slide” is part of the common language amongst educators, and its mention is usually followed with a sharp sigh, a bow of the head, a painful shrug of the shoulders. It’s a term that has been cast in the spotlight as a barrier to education equity.

Research suggests that summer learning can make a huge difference in closing or opening gaps in students’ reading levels. Activities such as visiting the library, reading during family trips, or attending summer classes help a student build on their progress in reading from the school year. However, such activities may not be available to students of families with limited time and income. Although the progress of low-income students during the school year statistically equals that of  their more economically advantaged peers, the differences in their summer activities may set them up for disparity heading into the new school year — hence the term, summer slide.

This summer, Reading Partners Seattle and Highline Public Schools partnered to help South Seattle students beat the summer slide. By receiving Reading Partners instruction during the summer at no cost to their families, students have an opportunity to foster their growth as readers during the summer. At the Shorewood reading center, a fleet of 28 Reading Partners volunteers will provide more than 100 hours of one-on-one literacy instruction to Highline Public School students for the summer.

As it turns out, the summer program has proven as much a learning opportunity for volunteers as it has for students. Jeraldi Gonzalez, 17, and Kristine Samonte, 16, are both high school interns volunteering for Reading Partners Seattle’s summer program. For both students, this is their first experience with a summer job.

For Jeraldi, volunteering with Reading Partners has allowed her to maintain a productive summer routine. “I’m actually doing something so I don’t feel as bored,” she explains. “It helps because I have to get up early in the morning, and I feel like I have all day to do things.”

For Kristine, volunteering with Reading Partners has allowed her to explore unexpected avenues for her future career. She explained, “My family is all in medicine, so joining [Reading Partners] has shown me I have other options.”

In addition, life-long learner and Reading Partners volunteer, Lynn Roberts, 74, saw summer tutoring as an opportunity to expand her knowledge of literacy instruction. As a well-versed tutor in the Beginning Readers and Comprehension Readers curriculums, Roberts requested to tutor in the Emerging Readers curriculum level over the summer to learn about the first stages of literacy development. Her summer experience has given her new tools as a literacy tutor at all levels.

Today I worked with another student in the [Beginning Readers] curriculum, and it was so much fun — it was like, I understand this! I’m applying the concepts of the program, and it works!

Lynn has also enjoyed the continuity between the Reading Partners summer program at Shorewood reading center, and her school-year experience at the Sanislo reading center. “To walk into a different school for the summer program, and to work the same program in a different building, with different students, in a different environment, and it all works the same way — it’s fun!”

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