Community Spotlight: Summer Slide

Encouraging students to read in the summer to keep them on track.

Did you know when kids are out of school in the summer, they can fall behind and not be as prepared for the next school year? This is called “summer slide,” which can occur because children may not have access to out-of-school learning programs, age-appropriate books at home or transportation to visit a library. 


When the school year ends, children in high-poverty environments struggle, not only with basic needs like healthy food and safe places to spend their days, but also with losing precious time during the summer months to continue their learning. Summer learning loss, or “summer slide,” can occur because children may not have access to out-of-school learning programs, age-appropriate books at home or transportation to visit a library.

The cumulative effect can leave low-income students two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers. In the 2016-17 academic year, more than 5,500 3rd grade students in the metro area were not reading at grade level. If a child does not read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade, he or she is four times more likely to drop out of high school – six times more likely if the child lives in poverty for a year.

We asked community experts Katie O’Brien, Literacy Interventionist at Holling Heights Elementary, and Melissa Mayo, Director of Community Impact, Education, at United Way of the Midlands, to share their insights on summer slide and how we can help students in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.


It is critical for students to read through the summer so they can stay on track. At United Way of the Midlands, we know that if children are provided opportunities to read in the summer they will be well prepared of next year’s school learning. That is why we invest in a variety of education programs and initiatives, as well as host a literacy volunteer service day. Here’s some examples of how we’re reducing summer slide:


Nearly 2,200 students across 10 schools in six school districts experienced the life-changing magic of reading over the past two academic years through a partnership between UWM and Book Trust, a national program. With a stipend of $7 each month, students ordered books based on their personal interests that they were able to call their own and take home to build personal libraries. Students received more than 90,000 books in the first two years of this three-year pilot. Special thanks to our Women United and Emerging Leaders affinity groups who support and fund “Book Trust.”


UWM also supports “Raise Me to Read,” a local community-based initiative, based on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, that supports literacy and early learning for every child across Pottawattamie County. This initiative, which focuses on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning to improve grade-level reading, will expand to Douglas and Sarpy counties by the end of 2018 to ensure more students in the three-county region are reading proficiently by 3rd grade.


On June 21, we are hosting the 3rd Annual “Day of Action,” a volunteer service day focused on childhood literacy. Community and corporate volunteers will have the opportunity to act as reading buddies for over 500 children. Each child will receive a literacy kit with books to take home, spend time reading their new books with a volunteer and engage in fun reading activities. Six of UWM’s partner agencies in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area are participating. “Day of Action” will kick-start a summer of reading to encourage students to be well prepared for next year’s school learning.

Register for Day of Action today at!

With the support of generous donors, UWM will continue to invest in quality out-of-school learning programs that have the potential to stop these losses and propel students toward higher achievement. Funders, policymakers and community leaders can help schools and local organizations address summer learning loss by supporting strong programs that engage more children in summer learning opportunities.

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