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Local initiatives target summer learning loss
Demby helps children line up for the library. - photo by Kristen Oliver

While many children spend their summer home with their families, some of them also spend that time losing the education they received the year before.

There are a small number of programs in Hall County designed to target summer learning loss, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County’s Summer Brain Gain Program and the Read Learn Succeed Summer Reading Program.

“The summer loss for our kids is very big,” said Pamela Nealey, curriculum director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County. “Kids don’t read during the summer, and half the kids forget everything they learned during the summer. So making sure they don’t have that loss is very important for us. Academic success is our first thing.”

The Summer Brain Gain Program at the club runs evaluations at the beginning and the end of the summer to measure the effects of the program. Depending on a child’s summer at the club, it lasts seven to nine weeks and offers a variety of games and hands-on activities, with academic lessons in science, technology, engineering and math.

“They are able to relate to their lessons, because they’re doing this hands-on stuff,” Nealey said. “They get to build it, they get to draw it, whatever is age-appropriate.”

Children who aren’t members of the club may require the help of their parents at home. The Read Learn Succeed Reading Program encourages parents to read to their children for just 15 minutes every day.

The Read Learn Succeed program will run the last two weeks of June and the entire month of July, beginning Monday. It stresses the importance of reading to children from birth to 5 years old daily, particularly in the summer, when children are not being educated daily.

The program will kick off Sunday with a community event at Elachee Nature Science Center from 2-4 p.m. Families are encouraged to bring their children for refreshments and activities on the Storybook Reading Trail.

Those parents who don’t have access to books for their children will also have greater access thanks to several Little Free Libraries popping up around the county.

Thursday, two Little Free Libraries were unveiled at Melrose Apartments Innovation Station in Gainesville, where more than 100 children will have access to them. Students lined up Thursday, as excited for a free book as they were
for a Popsicle.

The libraries are tiny houses resembling large birdhouses, where students can take one book at a time and return it or exchange it when finished. They were built by young men in the THINK boyhood-to-manhood program, which meets weekly at Innovation Station.

The project was funded by the United Way, and Carroll Daniel Construction Company helped the THINK boys build the houses, which were then hand-painted by the Quinlan Visual Arts Center outreach program. The libraries are already filling with donated books, though there is always room for more.

Ruth Demby, United Way of Hall County coordinator for Read Learn Succeed, was present Thursday for the unveiling and expressed her excitement at the opportunities the libraries present.

“Read Learn Succeed has a mission that everyone in Hall County will understand how important it is that children from birth are surrounded by books and that we are reading aloud to them daily, so that every day they are learning,” Demby said. “We’re learning how to interact with our children so that they can be successful and grow. If we’re reading to them today, when it comes time for pre-K and kindergarten, they will be ready to take off.”

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