Putting a stop to dreaded 'Summer Slide'

ARKPORT — Four-year old Isla Feenaughty of Arkport gazed wide-eyed with amazement at the prize she pulled out of a treat bag: a thick storybook with colorful illustrations about a yellow puppy.

The book was a fitting prize for Isla. She read the most books in her age group during the Arkport Village Book Center’s summer reading program. The program concluded last Friday with an awards ceremony at the Arkport Community Center.

Forty-one young readers participated in this summer’s program, up from 31 last year, according to Cathy Smith, director of the book center.

Prizes were awarded to readers who completed the most books.

“Anything over ten books, they’ll get a certificate from Applebee’s for a free kid’s meal,” Smith said.

Other area businesses donated items to fill treat bags. Young recipients marched proudly to the front of the room to accept the awards and say thank you to Miss Cathy.

“We started at age three and went to sixth grade, and so some of these kids will be just learning how to read, and I’m sure this will help them,” Smith said.

Summer reading programs can play an important role in stopping the “summer slide,” a term given to the reading losses that students may suffer over weeks of vacation. According to the New York State Education Department, “It is estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being disproportionately affected.”

The effects of the summer slide can be cumulative. As the education department reports, “Researchers conclude that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years.”

Lisa Marvin of Arkport endorsed the summer program. Her sons Seth and Micah finished first in their age groups, reading 12 books each.

“I think it’s just a really good opportunity for them to stay reading during the summer. They get excited about reading and checking out books every week,” she said.

Carol McNeil of Fremont brought her four great-grandchildren to the program. Skye and Honesty Pineda each read ten books. Jy’Ahmeir Rivera read eight. As McNeil held toddler Emmanuel Rivera in her lap, she said that reading brings calm to hectic summer days in a household of active children.

“In the morning after breakfast and at night before they go to bed, yes. Rainy days, it’s nice to have books,” she said, adding that the family has a big collection of treasured books.

Skye Pineda, who is going into third grade, said the best part of the summer program was that “I got to read books,” adding that her favorite was “the book that I got Wednesday – ‘Best of All Fairy Tales Two.’”

The theme of this summer’s reading program was “Let’s Build a Better World.” Participants colored and built 3-D paper houses which were on display at Friday’s awards program.