Finding Joy in Reading

THE “SUMMER SLIDE” is described as the loss of learning most students experience while on summer break. “Summer slide,” “brain drain,” and “summer learning loss” all describe the phenomenon that occurs when students “turn off their brains” during the summer months*. Researchers and educators concur that about two months of reading skills are lost over a single summer. The statistic only skyrockets with each higher-grade level. With its Summer Reading Program, the O.B. Vaughan Library at STCH Ministries Homes for Children Boothe Campus is committed to encouraging students to continue learning during the summer.

The old saying often goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” With that in mind, most local libraries offer the community a summer reading program and free book access. STCH Ministries’ Vaughan Library is no different. Open for extended hours during the summer months, the library on campus celebrated its tenth anniversary of offering the Summer Reading Program to all the students at Homes for Children.

Each year, the reading program kicks off at the start of summer break, and Homes for Children students are invited to compete based on their grade level. While the program is meant to encourage students to continue reading throughout the summer, the reading program is not mandatory; however, students love being able to compete. STCH Ministries librarian, Mrs. Perkins also creates a theme for the reading program every year to help increase excitement. Over the years the themes have included Dr. Seuss, Carnival Fun, Treasure Chest and more. This year the theme was God’s Masterpiece. With this theme, Mrs. Perkins encouraged students to create artwork to display in the library throughout the summer. She also hosted a celebration on campus where students could create masterpieces out of food. The biggest goal of this summer’s theme was to remind every student that they are God’s masterpiece no matter what they have been through.

Throughout the summer, rewards are given to students as they reach certain reading milestones. For every two hours of reading initialed by houseparents on a student’s reading log, they receive a reward. Rewards include candy, soda, other treats, small toys and stuffed animals. These small incentives help students continue to be excited to log more reading hours. “Students that participate in the reading program are always excited to read; they beg to read,” one houseparent shared. A total of 478 hours of reading were completed by the 47 student participants this year.

The Summer Reading Program hosts a reward recognition for all participants at the close of summer break. Top readers within each age group are recognized, including the top 12 readers out of all the age groups combined. This summer’s overall top reader was a middle schooler named Jade. Mrs. Perkins noted that Jade, “read almost half her hours while the library was open.” Mrs. Perkins went on to share that each time Jade entered the library this summer, she chose to read over getting a turn on the library’s computers, as most of the other kids often do.

Jade’s housemom, Robin Fisher, shared how the reading program’s motivation to read has helped the girls in their cottage to “have a healthier respect for reality and doing the work to be entertained instead of always being focused on technology.” The access to books the library provides is vital to help prevent learning loss over the summer amongst the students. “The fact that they’re asking to pick up a book instead of getting on the computer or watching television is huge,” Fisher added.

Jade first arrived at Homes for Children Boothe Campus in 2020. Each year she’s been at STCH Ministries, she has participated in and placed in the competition. In her first year, she totaled 42 hours and placed 1st in her age group. This summer, Jade surpassed her previous record of 42 hours and was also recognized as the Top Reader of the entire program with a total of 54 hours.

Participants of the Summer Reading Program demonstrate commitment, responsibility and integrity, as they are encouraged to complete reading logs honestly. Potentially influencing their peers to read is another excellent benefit of the program. If a student reads to another student, they both get to include that time in their reading logs, older to younger or younger to older. Reading together encouraged students to continue their reading all summer long.

The reading program can also lead students to want to read outside the program. Jade realized reading did not have to be a chore and that she actually enjoys reading. This new excitement for reading has led to her wanting to continue to read, for fun, outside the Summer Reading Program. She also began sitting with her houseparents in the evenings as they started reading the Bible in a year. She loves following along and hearing Bible stories as her houseparents read aloud. “If you ask Jade right now, her favorite part of the Bible is 1 Chronicles because of all the silly names in it,” Robin shared.

The Fishers admitted that, before the summer reading program, they would invite the girls to join them in their evening Bible reading, and most declined. Once the reading program started, Jade joined them every night. Due to Jade’s eagerness to join the Fishers in their daily Bible reading, other girls in her cottage began to join them too. “The reading program has impacted this cottage for His glory,” Robin excitedly shared. The summer reading program increased overall reading in the Fishers cottage, leading to the enjoyment of family Bible reading each evening.

Jade entered the 7th grade this school year with all the benefits of having stayed in her books all summer long. Children who read four or more books over a summer perform better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who don’t.*

Learning does not have to come to a screeching halt each summer. Encouraging students of all ages to continue reading while out of school can reduce the “summer slide” immensely. Jade is just one example of how summer reading programs, library access and encouragement from houseparents can help make the transition from one grade level to the next easier. Mrs. Perkins is already at work preparing for next summer’s reading program, anticipating an increase in the number of participants. She prays that more students find new joy and peace through reading.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)