Heights Libraries works to combat summer learning loss
Heights Libraries is teaming up with six other Cuyahoga County public library systems this summer to help local children and teens avoid summer learning loss, and to collect useful data about the most effective ways to do so.
Called “Make Your Summer Count,” this summer learning and research initiative is a first-time cooperative effort among Cleveland Public Library, Heights Libraries, Cuyahoga County Public Library, East Cleveland Public Library, Euclid Public Library, Shaker Heights Public Library and Westlake Public Library.
“We all have the same goal—helping our kids keep their academic skills sharp over the summer, especially reading skills,” said Nancy Levin, Heights Libraries director. “Academic research shows time and again that kids who participate in some kind of educational activity over the summer do much better academically when school starts up again in the fall. The kids who don’t have a much harder time getting back up to speed—that’s summer learning loss.”
Directors from the participating libraries met in October to explore the possibility of turning each library’s separate summer reading program into something more cooperative and data-driven by creating program guidelines and testing the effectiveness of the programs by gathering data from participating children.
The result of that cooperation is a nine-week summer learning program (June 8 through Aug. 7) that enables individual libraries to meet the unique needs of their specific communities while adhering to a framework that will enable research partner Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute (CRI) to effectively gather and analyze data to determine whether the program is effective at preventing, or at least slowing, learning loss. CRI will gather data by interviewing children and their parents or legal guardians at three points during the program: the beginning, the halfway point, and the end of the program.
“It was crucial that the programs have enough similarities to allow us to gather information consistently,” said Levin. “This will allow us to start making data-driven decisions about how public libraries can best help the kids in our communities.”
The guidelines for children and teens that each library’s program will follow include a reading requirement of 16 hours total over the nine weeks, completion of two math-related activities, and completion of one volunteer activity (which could be something as simple as helping a neighbor or donating food to a shelter).
The programs are designed to inspire kids and make participation fun. Heights Libraries’ programs will feature superhero themes: “Every Hero has a Story” for grades K–5, and “Unmasked” for grades 6–12. Each child will get a colorful log sheet to track progress; a chance to participate in entertaining, superhero-themed programs at Heights Libraries branches throughout the summer; and multiple opportunities to win prizes, such as backpacks, books, gift cards for local restaurants, and passes to area cultural institutions, including the Great Lakes Science Center, the Children’s Museum of Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Preregistration begins this month—check www.heightslibrary.org for details.
Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.