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How local schools fight 'summer slide' learning loss
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Gonzalo Roman, 12, left, looks at books with his brother, Hector, 7, right, on the Reading Rocket mobile library bus at Baker's & Glover Mobile Home Park on Thursday, June 20, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

When the Reading Rocket mobile library pulls into neighborhoods across Hall County, it’s as if the ice cream truck has arrived.

But this bus feeds eager young minds on stories, with no risk of an ice-cream headache.

In fact, it’s “brain freeze” that local educators are trying to prevent.

Students may relish summer break, but learning loss is a dreaded consequence of the recess.

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Hector Roman, 7, left, and his brother, Gonzalo, 12, exit the Reading Rocket mobile library bus at Baker's & Glover Mobile Home Park on Thursday, June 20, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

A 2017 report from the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy and research group based in Washington, D.C., found that, on average, “students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning.”

The annual “summer slide” in academic achievement, particularly in reading among elementary-age students from lower-income households, has local school districts looking to new, preventative initiatives.

The Reading Rocket first hit the road a few years ago, but this year Hall County Schools decided “we would try to ramp it up a little bit,” said Kristi Crumpton, media services coordinator.

With the support of sponsors, such as Syfan Logistics, Smith and Hulsey Law, and Carroll Daniel Construction, as well as volunteers and even Hall County high school students, a bigger bus was purchased and outfitted to meet the expanding needs of the literacy program.

The Reading Rocket has bookcases instead of bench-seating, and with a paint job and new design wrap, it’s now making the rounds.

“It’s a ‘real’ book mobile now,” Crumpton said.

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Children look through books on the Reading Rocket mobile library bus at Baker's & Glover Mobile Home Park on Thursday, June 20, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Hall County Schools also partners with local churches to provide food and other services during Reading Rocket days at both neighborhoods and schools where other summer programs are ongoing.

Crumpton described it as “feeding kids with literacy and food,” and said that meeting students and their families where they live is critical to combating the summer slide and keeping literacy “resources in the kids’ hands.”

“We want everyone to be very comfortable with what we’re doing,” Crumpton added.

Gainesville City Schools, meanwhile, is expanding in-house summer programs at Gainesville middle and high schools, while also partnering with local nonprofits.

Last week, the board of education approved a nearly $49,000 contract with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier in Gainesville for summer services, which include literacy, tutoring and mentoring programs.

The board of education also approved $25,000 in funding support for the RISE summer program operated by the Gainesville Housing Authority and Brenau University.

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The Reading Rocket mobile library bus makes a stop at Baker's & Glover Mobile Home Park to distribute books on Thursday, June 20, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

The Real Interactive Summer Learning Experience is a six-week program for students in first through sixth grades.

Deputy Superintendent Sarah Bell said this funding, coupled with a multi-million-dollar literacy grant the school system was awarded last year, would help increase enrollment summer programs.  

“We decided that it would be best to supplement their efforts rather than trying to duplicate,” Bell said. “We are also using the literacy grant to provide additional resources for both programs.”

Additionally, Bell told the board of education, “These programs have worked closely with the district to identify goals, select appropriate curriculum and resources, and collaboratively ensure that students receive high quality summer experiences.”


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Kandis Thomas, a media specialist at Chestnut Mountain Elementary, sets up book displays on the Reading Rocket mobile library bus at Baker's & Glover Mobile Home Park on Thursday, June 20, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele
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