Hoping to combat the "summer slide," two Upper Arlington school librarians have developed programs to stay in touch with students and keep them reading during their break from classes.

According to the Children's Literacy Initiative and others in the academic field, the skills students learn during the school year can be lost or forgotten when reading isn't practiced during summer months.

The "summer slide," as it's known, can result in students falling behind when classes resume.

In an effort to stave off the reading setbacks, Jill Merkle and Shannon Hemmelgarn, media specialists at Greensview Elementary and Windermere Elementary, respectively, have developed informal programs in partnership with the Upper Arlington Public Library's Lane Road Branch.

Merkle created "Teacher Tuesdays," which she's held every other Tuesday from 3 to 4 p.m. in June and throughout July at the Lane Road Branch. The events allow students to visit with her and other Greensview teachers at the library, update her on their summer reading and get ideas for new books to read.

Hemmelgarn, who had been encouraging students to read by providing book recommendations via Facebook, piggybacked on Merkle's program to develop "Windermere Wednesdays," in which she invites students to meet with her from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday.

Merkle said Teacher Tuesdays is a carryover from a summer reading initiative she began when she was a media specialist in the Hilliard School District.

"Originally, it was so we could keep in touch with kids over the summer," Merkle said. "We worked with the library so we could be involved in summer reading clubs it offered over the summer.

"When I was in Hilliard, teachers said they saw signs of reading improvement in students. If students don't practice reading, their skills can diminish."

Hemmelgarn said Windermere Wednesdays were established to help motivate young students to read when they're not in school. The access to books the local library provides diversifies the reading material available to them, she said.

"I feel like we're reaching a lot of kids that way," she said. "It's just a good way to keep kids excited about reading and just to let them know we think about them over the summer.

"When they go back to school, this allows them to hit the ground running."

During a July 12 Windermere Wednesday, students trickled in to the Lane Road Library basement and intermittently milled about the bookshelves and updated Hemmelgarn on what they've been reading.

Hemmelgarn also took turns helping to find new books for individual students to read.

While some parents said they came in hopes of finding library books that were different or more appealing than their collections at home, Mandy Johnson said she brought her 7-year-old son, Gray, in hopes of bolstering his reading level.

"He enjoys reading," Johnson said. "We're on vacation and thought maybe we could get him something more challenging, something more in-depth that might prepare him better for the school year and to read more advanced stories."

Merkle and Hemmelgarn said their programs are examples of the ongoing partnership between the schools and the library system to generate enthusiasm about reading and showcase library services.

Hemmelgarn noted that in August, all UA elementary school media specialists will take part in meetings with incoming kindergarten students and parents at UA library branches to highlight services that the schools and public libraries offer to students and families.

Merkle said there's a common goal between the school and public libraries to offer enrichment services and to build strong readers and lifelong learners.

"I do like that community partnership between the schools and the public library, that we can work together to help students," she said. "Teacher Tuesdays is a wonderful motivator to get students into the public library, checking out books and reading all summer long."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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