It’s known as the “summer slide.” Without the reinforcement of summer reading, children can return to school in the fall having lost skills previously acquired. This phenomenon particularly affects children in high poverty areas, where there are no books at home and few opportunities for enrichment activities during summer months.
Reading is the foundation of all learning, but children from low-income families experience an “achievement gap” between them and their more affluent peers when it comes to literacy. If not addressed, the gap only gets larger in every successive school year.
For nearly 25 years, New Haven’s LEAP (leadership, education, and athletics in partnership) has been reversing that trend. It serves currently 580 children between the ages of 7 and 18 in its free summer programs. Its goal is to keep kids reading, encouraging them to pick books that intrigue them, and to read to themselves, in groups, and at home. Research has shown that a dozen books read over the course of a summer can eliminate the “summer slide” and prepare kids to enter their next grade successfully.
While books are at the center of things, LEAP offers so much more: a dance studio, an arts room, a swimming pool, a computer lab, a garden, camping, and field trips. For older children who’ve come up through the ranks, LEAP offers an opportunity to mentor younger students and encourages them to continue their studies at the college level.
Here, a group of 8-year-olds is preparing for the family presentation that concludes every summer program. Each student group decides how they would like to show off skills learned during the summer session. This chorus line is warming up to the sounds of “Baby, I’m Worth It.” At the bottom of all that reading, we hope that’s the message they carry with them throughout their lives.