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This summer the Evanston Cradle to Career (EC2C) is launching its first summer learning initiative to increase literacy and combat summer learning loss, said Sheila Merry, Executive Director of EC2C.

Studies show that children from middle- or upper-income families typically increase their academic knowledge by one month during the summer because they participate in camps, trips to museums, and other enrichment activities.  A child from a low-income family, however, typically loses two to three months in reading skills during the summer. Even though students from both income levels may grow at the same level during the school year, achievement gaps can widen due to what is called the “summer learning loss.”

Effective summer reading programs can reduce the typical summer learning loss, and some actually increase low-income students’ academic achievement during the summer, such as the programs which have been provided by McGaw Y and Foundation 65 in partnership with School District 65.

One study suggests that if a student reads four to five books during the summer, it may be enough to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores during the summer months.

“One of the things that I have been struck by as we looked at the research is the really significant impact of summer learning loss on the contribution to the achievement gap, and we wanted to target that this year,” Ms. Merry told the RoundTable. “A piece of that has been in expanding the number of programs that will provide direct literacy programs to kids and expanding the slots that will be available.”

Community organizations have arranged to expand or provide new literacy programs during this summer. On a combined basis, about 6,000 more youth will receive literacy development during this summer than last year. These consist of: 

• An additional 714 youth will participate in summer literacy programs offered by McGaw Y, Y.O.U. Reading and Writing Workshops, and Foundation 65 Reading Program, all in partnership with School District 65; ABC Boosters; the new Freedom School; ETHS Summer Program;  Family Focus Theatre/STEM Programs; and Dajae Coleman Foundation.

• An additional 630 youth will be reached in the Evanston Public Library’s expanded summer reading program.

• An additional 4,745 youth will read 20 minutes a day as part of the summer camp programs offered by the Evanston Park District, Ridgeville Park District, YWCA Evanston/Northshore, and Family Focus.

“The ability of nonprofits to reach more children this summer comes significantly through the expanded financial support of School Districts 65 and 202,” said Ms. Merry.


Adding reading time to the summer camp programs is new this year. “We hope that adding 20 minutes of reading can really begin to bite into this summer learning loss challenge, and what the lack of resources means for lower-income young people during the summer months,” Ms. Merry said.

She added that EC2C plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the summer literacy programs where data sharing agreements are in place. With respect to the summer camp programs, she said EC2C plans to evaluate the implementation of reading time as part of the summer camps, with a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in 2017.


The Book Drive

EC2C is also partnering with the Evanston Public Library and Evanston Public Library Friends in the “Everybody Reads Book Drive” to supply specially selected books to children attending the summer camps offered by the Evanston Park District, Ridgeville Park District, YWCA Evanston/Northshore, and Family Focus. Children attending these camps will have regularly scheduled reading times as part of their camp activities, with additional support by children’s librarians. The book drive seeks donations of high-quality books that reflect the diversity of the Evanston community. People may donate by purchasing books from the Everybody Reads Book List or by making financial contributions to the Evanston Public Library. The book list and ways to contribute are available at: https://60434.thankyou4caring.org/summer-reading/everybody-reads.  Purchased books may be dropped off at EPL branches or any Evanston community center or mailed directly to EC2C through the Amazon wish list to Evanston Cradle to Career, 2010 Dewey, 2nd Floor, Evanston, IL 60201.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...