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MaryEllen Elia: Avoid Summer Brain Drain

As May draws to a close and the temperatures begin to heat up, many children are counting down the final days of this school year, ready for the fun and relaxation of summer vacation.

And summer break is wonderful time to relax with a good book – or better yet, several books!

There are many programs available to keep kids reading when school is out—and the State Library offers one of the best. The State Library coordinates a statewide summer reading program and works with 23 library systems across New York in hundreds of communities.  Some 1,100 local libraries in New York offer free summer reading programs. Last year, nearly two million children and teens participated in summer reading fun at their local libraries throughout the state.

I encourage you, and the students in your life, to take advantage of this program.

The “Summer Reading at New York Libraries” program is also a bargain. Programs are completely free to all children, from toddlers to teens. And parents are encouraged to participate as well!

Library staff help children select reading materials and host programs like storytelling, creative arts, and musical performances that boost literacy and enhance the reading experience. Some libraries even partner with nearby museums and community organizations to offer additional programs, which are fun and always educational.

Most importantly, summer reading programs at public libraries put books in children’s hands. Whether you call it “brain drain” or “summer slide,” it’s estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being even more affected. That leads to teachers and students playing catchup in the fall, taking up critical instructional time intended to cover new material.

Having access to books and library programs in June, July, and August means kids read more which, in turn, results in improved reading skills.

Of course, summer reading programs aren’t just about giving children access to books – it’s also about encouraging a love of reading and learning. We all want our students to be lifelong learners and readers.

Encourage the children you know to get a library card at their local public library – remember, it’s free! You can visit the New York State Library’s website for summer reading lists and to find a participating library in your community. Or you can always just drop in to see what’s going on!

I hope you’ll join me in helping all our children discover the joys of reading this summer. By doing so, you’re helping to prevent the ‘summer slide’ and setting them up for a successful school year come September.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

MaryEllen Elia is New York State Education Commisioner.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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