Ely library's "summer slide" reading program receives state literacy award

Published: Oct. 25, 2019 at 9:36 PM CDT
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The Ely Public Library received the Iowa Literacy Award Friday for its work to prevent something called "summer slide." This is when students lose a significant amount of knowledge in math and reading over summer break.

Kaitlyn and Audrey Sellon have been helpers in Ely's Summer Reading Support all five years of its existence.

"I love to read. I really love to help kids," said Audrey Sellon.

"My mom said, hey, this is a good thing to help out with," said Kaitlyn Sellon. "As the summer went on they got better at levels and their fluency just increased a lot."

They are just two of the 300 volunteers, in those five years that have helped kids in the two and a half month long program.

"Our initiative was to try and alleviate that or help that by providing one-on-one reading during the summer months," said Library Director Sarah Sellon.

The Director says volunteers have worked with over 244 kids from all over eastern Iowa, and the kids have read over 1,600 hours.

"We're always trying to increase the literacy. There's always too much time on screens," said Sarah.

A "Northwest Evaluation Association" study showed students in grades 3 through 5 lose between 20 and 27 percent of math and reading during this time period. The study showed the summer after seventh grade, students lose on average 36 percent of their school-year gains in reading and half of their gains in math.

Researchers also found summer learning loss increases with age through elementary and middle school.

Retired Prairie Elementary Reading teacher Becky Showalter says it's an issue she's seen firsthand.

"They can lose so much ground that we worked so hard to attain during the school year," said Showalter. "I know the children I worked with in really benefited from the program and many came down here to work with the volunteers in the summer."

Sarah says it’s a program and award they are honored to get.

"It's a really prestigious honor. We’re really excited we can earn this," said Sarah.

The library also was awarded $2,000 that will go towards enhancing its summer reading support collection.