By S. Kelley Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Action Ministries
Poverty is a complex issue, and solutions require targeted efforts to restore many overlapping fractures if we are to provide families with a strong foundation for upward mobility. In recent weeks, topics of eviction, food insecurity, and summer hunger may have led you to find ways to get involved in your local community. Poverty is a community challenge, requiring community-wide engagement to navigate a path forward for Georgia’s families. One specific community challenge is literacy, and particularly the phenomenon of “Summer Slide.”
According to the Georgia Department of Education’s “Get Georgia Reading” campaign, kids who do not read over the summer lose up to three months of reading ability (2018). In other words, teachers have to rebuild lost momentum in the fall. The same study also states that in Georgia, 2 out of 3 of our third graders are not reading at grade level. This fact makes the summer an extremely important time in the development of our children.
Childhood poverty, 3rd-grade literacy, and summer slide are leading causes for reduced high school graduation rates. In a Brooking’s Institute study on the same topic, the data painted a more difficult scenario for low-income families. This article cited a peer-reviewed report about what is called “faucet theory,” where most kids generally experience equal access to resources during the school year when the information “faucet” is running. In the summer, students from lower-income families had less access to the same resources during the summer (Summer Learning Loss, Brookings, 9/14/2017).
If you combine these research studies with the challenges of food insecurity, the path to multi-generational poverty becomes clear. One way of addressing this persistent challenge is improving access to books for kids during the summer. Action Ministries has partnered with Get Georgia Reading to distribute over 100,000 books each year to children in Georgia for the past 3 years. In addition to books, we recruit passionate volunteers to deliver these books into communities and “read with” the children.
Reading with a child promotes better reading comprehension, confidence, and improves overall literacy scores…and it is just plain fun! So, read with your kids, and consider starting a community literacy initiative for your neighbors through your church or workplace. Together we can invest time and attention to the next generation, and transform communities by empowering the next generation!