Libraries, Schools and Others Work to Minimize the Summer Slide

Public libraries throughout the state are currently knee-deep in summer reading programs and outreach efforts. This is usually the busiest time of year for them as they work to help students maintain the reading gains made during the school year while providing fun activities that draw kids of all ages into the library during their summer vacation. The Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) has worked with public and some school libraries for over 40 years to provide resources and support to strengthen summer programs and reach more children who may have barriers in participating.

Last year over 45,000 children participated in summer reading programs offered in nearly every one of the 143 public libraries in Idaho. While that number represents a big chunk of Idaho students and preschoolers, ICfL staff took a careful look at the data from public libraries partnering with elementary schools serving a high percentage of low-income students and found that fewer than 20 percent of the children in most of those schools were participating in public library summer reading programs. “Those are the kids who are most at risk of losing reading skills over the summer if they don’t have access to books,” ICfL Summer Reading Coordinator Staci Shaw said. “If only two out of every ten elementary students are participating in summer reading, we are going to be spinning our wheels in these communities. The cumulative effect of low-income children who don’t read for pleasure summer after summer is an achievement gap that can be as wide as four years by the time they get through high school. We have to find other ways to ensure they are reading for pleasure during those months.”

Working closely with Boise State University Literacy Professor Dr. Roger Stewart, staff at the ICfL launched a pilot program last year to keep six elementary schools open over the summer and provided K-2 students in three of those schools with six paperback books the students selected themselves during the last weeks of school. These research-based strategies come from Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap, a book that has been widely shared in trainings for public and school librarians. Allington asserts that summer reading loss accounts for roughly 80 percent of the rich/poor reading achievement gap, yet far too little attention is given to this pressing problem. While Idaho Reading Indicator scores didn’t budge during the first year of the ICfL’s Summer Slide pilot program, new strategies and efforts in Year 2 of the program are in place and staff members are optimistic that more students will minimize their summer slide this year. Participating schools are Horizon Elementary in Jerome, Mountain View Elementary in Burley, Desert Sage Elementary in the West Ada School District, Wilson Elementary in Caldwell, and Fernan Elementary in Coeur d’Alene.

Focus groups with parents and work done in past years to increase participation found that many parents do not understand how crucial it is for children to spend time outside of the school day reading. Radio public service announcements in English and Spanish began airing statewide in April and will run through June to help convey the importance of out of school reading time. (You can listen to the 30-second ads at Students who only read in school will rarely be great readers. The time spent in school is usually enough time to learn to read, but not nearly enough time for most kids to become proficient at reading. “The radio ads are short, but the more times and different ways parents hear this message the more likely they are to act on it,” Shaw said.

Another strategy libraries are using to reach children who may struggle with reading or have barriers getting to a library is to “follow the food.” Idaho had 321 Summer Nutrition Feeding Sites in 2014 and the ultimate goal is to provide books and learning enrichment activities from the library at as many of these sites as possible. ICfL and library staff from Ada Community Library and Boise and Garden City Public Libraries are in their third year of hosting “Literacy in the Park” programs in partnership with the Idaho Foodbank’s Picnic in the Park program. Each of the 26 parks and low-income housing sites served through the Foodbank’s lunch program get a weekly visit from library staff who bring bins of paperback books for the kids along with fun science and other learning activities. Over 12,000 children of all ages participated in Literacy in the Park last summer and surveys conducted the last two weeks of the program showed participating children enjoyed the books they borrowed and 75 percent said they read more that summer than past summers. One-third of parents surveyed during the last two weeks of the program attributed the increase in reading to Literacy in the Park efforts.

ICfL VISTA Volunteer Levi Orr reads to children during last year’s Literacy in the Park program.
ICfL VISTA Volunteer Levi Orr reads to children during last year’s Literacy in the Park program.

A third of the public libraries in the state are planning similar outreach efforts this summer at feeding sites along with visits to daycares, migrant and seasonal Head Start programs and summer school programs. ICfL is providing over 10,000 paperback books for public libraries to use in these efforts.

“Libraries are working with schools and as many partners as possible to reach youth who wouldn’t normally participate in summer reading programs. We are excited about how these partnerships are shaping up and the efforts being made to ensure fewer kids will arrive at school in the fall who are behind their peers who have had access to books,” Shaw said.

ICfL staff can share more information about Idaho’s efforts to combat the summer slide at library board meetings and/or by providing copies of Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap for library staff or trustees. Contact Stephanie Bailey-White, for more information about getting a book or scheduling a brief presentation.

Stephanie Bailey-White has been with the Idaho Commission for Libraries for 23 years and helped launch the Read to Me Program in 1997 to advance early literacy statewide. She has a Master’s Degree in Reading Education and loves seeing Read to Me programs in action across the state.

Comics created at the Librarian Ice Cream Social as part of the Digital Comic Books panel


Great comics created at an excellent presentation at ILA Region 2!

Originally posted on Library Ice Cream Social:

ice cream conflict

Linnea Marshall – University of Idaho

Frame 1: A Book

Frame 2: Hmm – This comic needs a plot.

Frame 3: Maybe I need an antagonist.

Frame 4: I’d be glad to disagree with you.

Frame 5: Ok…How about going for ice cream.  -Okay!  I’m for that.

Frame 6: Let’s read some comic books.  -Good idea!

Frame 7: What kind of conflict can we have?  You are too agreeable.

Frame 8: No conflict no story.

Frame 9: I disagree with that.

Ice Cream Library

Lorena O’English – Washington State University

As seen in the presentation:

ILA R@ 2015 strip final

Robert Perret – University of Idaho

View original

Tech Tools: Got to Move it Move it!

Tech TalkEllie smiling

Welcome to (or back to) Tech Tools, a regular column of The Idaho Librarian devoted to informal discussion of practical technologies. As always, I welcome your comments, ideas, and feedback on this post or other technologies you would like featured in this column.

Got to Move it Move it

I’m sure you’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking,” a turn of phrase coined by Dr. James Levine, head of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative (McVean, 2014).  Many librarians have jobs that are comprised in large part of desk work, and do not have access to sit-stand workstations, much less the treadmill workstations that Dr. Levine recommends. This makes it difficult to incorporate movement into one’s workday, especially when deadlines loom, and when do they not loom? With that in mind, I’ve reviewed several free online tools to help you get moving throughout the day.

belly dancers
(c) Jeannie Fletcher, some rights reserved.

FitBolt –

FitBolt is too that reminds one to do a brief exercise or stretch at regular intervals. For $3/month, the premium version will additionally provide nutrition and ergonomics tips. The FitBolt website provides instructions for integrating with FitBit, RunKeeper, and Daily Mile, though I have not tested this feature.

FitBolt is available as a Chrome or Firefox plug-in, as a desktop application, and as a Web app. There is very little difference between the options, except for where the FitBolt window is viewed.

The browser plug-in option displays an icon next to the address bar, as with any other add-on. The desktop app does the same on the toolbar of your OS – in Windows, this is the bar at the bottom of your screen showing what you have open as well as anything you’ve pinned to it. The Web app displays on a Webpage that is left open while using FitBolt. All of these options are easy to install/launch from the FitBolt Dashboard. For this review, I’m using the Chrome plug-in.

This partial view of the FitBolt user dashboard shows the four ways of using FitBolt on the right.  Settings are on the left.
This partial view of the FitBolt user dashboard shows the four ways of using FitBolt on the right. On the left side of the screen several settings options are shown.

Settings include frequency of exercise reminders, a chime on/off toggle, a browser notifications toggle, and the choice of stretches, quick exercises, or both. Once FitBolt is launched, it isn’t necessary to keep the Dashboard open. The dashboard also displays an area titled “last 7 days use,” but I wasn’t able to get this feature to work.

fitbolt app
The FitBolt icon shown on Google Chrome to the left of my, Pomodoro timer, Pinterest, and Pocket icons. Hovering over the app will display a popup box showing how much time is left before a break.

To use FitBolt, click the icon to see a popup window which includes a countdown to the next exercise session; buttons to pause, do an exercise immediately, and view exercise history; and a link to the user dashboard.

When the timer indicates that it’s time for an exercise session, click the FitBolt app icon to see concise instructions with photos. If you don’t like the stretch/exercise on tap, click the little running man on the top right to generate a new one. All of the stretches and exercises can be done in a small space and do not require equipment.

The FitBolt popup window during an exercise session. The portion above the blue arrow near the top right shows what will display in between exercise sessions.
The FitBolt popup window during an exercise session.

I like the flexibility of being able to set the timing for my breaks and I found it easier to take breaks when assigned a quick exercise. I found that I didn’t lose my focus as much as I do when taking free-form breaks. I recommend FitBolt to those who have trouble taking breaks and find that the extra structure is helpful.

Regular Breaks –

Regular Breaks is a super-simple Web-based timer system. After registering for a free account, you can set up breaks by intervals or specific times and track your progress by clicking the chart icon.

regular breaks
Regular breaks is an easy, streamlined break timer.

Changing the settings for your break reminder is easy – just click the gear to the right of the reminder window. Setting up a new break works the same way, but start by clicking the “+Add” link near the top of the screen.

The options for a break reminder are simple, but it does what I need.
The options for a break reminder are simple, but thoughtful.

When it’s time for a break a browser notification (and a sound, if chosen) will alert you to this fact. Click in the browser notification window to record the break, which will allow you to track your progress over time by clicking the graph icon displayed to the right of each reminder.

The browser alert popup for Regular Breaks.
The browser alert popup for Regular Breaks.
To validate a break, move your cursor into the area outlined in gold for 10 seconds. No need to click your mouse.
To validate a break, move your cursor into the area outlined in gold for 10 seconds. No need to click your mouse.

I like the simplicity and usability of Regular Breaks, and appreciate the ability to track progress but I did not find that I was as likely to take breaks without the addition of an exercise reminder. However, because it’s easy to set up multiple breaks of any duration, one could certainly create a program with specific activities scheduled throughout the day. Regular Breaks is a great tool for people who are motivated by seeing progress but don’t want to be told what exercises to do and/or for people who want the flexibility of setting up multiple breaks.

PYV (Protect Your Vision) –

OK, so the “sitting is killing you” thing isn’t about your vision, but eyes do involve muscles, and staring at a computer screen all day causes eye strain. PYV is a Web-based app that reminds you to take a break from looking at the computer screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. There is also an “Eyes Gymnastics” feature, which provides instructions for a series of 4 eye movement exercises.

The PYV screen.
The PYV screen. I’m not sure what the character is supposed to be, but s/he is certainly cute.

No account is required for PYV, just go to the Website and click start. There are three themes to choose from, including Sunny (shown), Space (what it sounds like), and Simple (plain background).

Since PYV is Web-based, your Internet browser must be open while PYV runs. However, it is not necessary that you be using it, since a pleasant alarm reminds you that your eyes need a break. At this point, return to the browser window and choose to take a 20-second break, to have PYV remind you in 3 or 5 minutes, or skip the break. During a break, the computer screen is blacked out, which I found rather soothing.

I like the short breaks (who can’t take a 20 second break, right?) and found it helpful to give my eyes frequent rest. Having more than one app remind me to do do something got to be a bit much, so I would suggest choosing one break reminder, and using it as a reminder to move your body and your eyes.