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The Evanston Public Library will provide in-kind support of $30,000 over three years to Foundation 65 for the Summer Reading Program (SRP). The program, which supports students who have received supplementary reading assistance in first grade, was developed by a District 65 Reading Recovery teacher, Linda Shusterman, in response to the considerable summer reading loss that she witnessed in her students over the years. The goal of the program is to help these emergent readers maintain the reading growth they achieve during the school year.

Foundation 65 began funding the Summer Reading Program at Title I schools in 2004. This summer, with help from the Evanston Public Library, the program is expanding to include students at several non-Title I schools, as well as Spanish language students in District 65.

Research has documented that summer reading loss is a real issue for many students, particularly for those who are already struggling. Compounding this is the fact that struggling readers are often from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and are already at risk academically.

“Students can lose up to three months of reading progress over the summer, setting a child who was already below grade level even further behind. That presents real challenges for teachers in the fall who must deal with a widening achievement gap,” said Ellen Fogelberg, literacy director and interim assistant superintendent of elementary and early childhood education programs for District 65.

“The high degree of customization of this program, based on the reading level and interests of each and every student, is what makes it so successful,” said Ms. Shusterman, who created the program 15 years ago.

District 65 Reading Recovery teachers and reading specialists spend hours in the spring, poring over books to select a combination of 24 non-fiction and fiction titles. Each book is specifically selected for each particular student, matching the student’s reading level and interest. Teachers send students the books throughout the summer along with a personal letter and materials so the student can write back to them. “Often times it is the first time a child has ever received something in the mail,” said Ms. Shusterman, “and that excitement translates into enthusiasm and motivation to read.”

Students are assessed in the spring and fall, and past results show that the program is highly effective. Since the program has been in effect, approximately 90 percent of the students maintain the reading level that they achieved at the end of the school year. Of that 90 percent, a significant number (approximately 40 percent) actually increase their reading level when they return to school in September.