Back Story: In 2011, Expect More Tehama was just learning about the power of third grade reading proficiency after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson launched Sacramento READS! A third grade literacy program. His actions were in response to grim findings published in a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Expect More was curious about Tehama County numbers and quickly learned our own students were struggling. About the same time, a story aired on 60 Minutes that showed a powerful visual of the “summer slide” when kids, especially those from socially economically challenged households, lose some of what they gained in school while their better off peers stay steady and even gain skills. Prevention suggestions included summer reading, school readiness and better attendance.
According to the 2009 NAEP assessments, in the US only 33% of fourth graders are reading proficiently and in California only 24% of fourth graders are reading proficiently. Research shows that 74% students who are behind will never catch up. In Tehama County this continues to be a challenge:
In Tehama County, lack of funding made it difficult for most schools to host summer school. Larger areas would publish what felt like elaborate summer programs that our children did not have access to either because of transportation, funding or awareness. Who was offering swimming lessons? Where could kids learn skills in sports? Arts? Overnight camps? Access to books?
Goal: Expect More decided that since school was out, they needed to partner with “summer educators” to own summer in order to maintain/increase reading levels and stop the summer slide.
The Program: In the beginning, owning summer meant two things: getting books out into the community and publishing a simple guide of no and low cost activities in the area.
“The challenge was tracking down everyone who hosted any type of summer program and getting their information published before school was out for the year,” said Coordinator Kathy Garcia. “We didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we had to track down swimming lessons, church camps, art classes, sports camps, free movies. You name it.”
Books for all ages were also collected through book and cash donations and delivered via a book mobile provided by the Department of Education and at Farmer’s Markets where volunteers would also give out books. Little Free Libraries were constructed and set up. Some businesses also hosted community bookshelves. The library worked with schools to allow students to continue earning reading points using the same tracking programs the schools used, earning prizes and rewards.
Today, the effort continues. “We want kids engaged, learning and having fun all summer long,” said Garcia. “We also want our local programs to be full, so we are happy to help with marketing and social media support of their programs.”
This past March, before shelter in place began, a summer event mapping meeting took place that included social media training for program leads.
The mapping session accomplishes several things: It educates all program leads on why they are important to our kids’ development; it connects programs with programs who often leverage resources; and it identifies gaps in services. In the last two years summer performing arts camps were added as well as an Everything TECH Camp in response to a lack of middle school programming.
“This year, more than ever, we will rely on the guide and social media to keep families aware of ways to connect, access books and projects, and ways to have fun and learn,” said Garcia. “Be on the lookout for two SERRF Mobiles to be running around the county handing out STEAM projects along with Farm Bureau packets, library resources and First 5 books. Watch for geocaching in new areas and online art classes! It could really get creative!”
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