"Summer Slide is described as having something to do with how kids from low-income families lose the most ground, educationally, during the summer months when they are not in class, losing access to books and to the opportunity to continue their studies, or just to read for enjoyment and improvement of their levels of language comprehension, reading comprehension and literacy. And when repeated summer after summer....it can all add up to negative effect.
During the last week of May the Houston Chronicle had an editorial on efforts in the city by a new Houston-based volunteer group, Books Between Kids, that is helping large numbers of kids to build home libraries.
To quote the editorial:
"In the coming weeks, at book fairs across town, students will choose the books they want to take home - books that interest them, books they'll read, books that are astoundingly good for them. And this year, Barnes and Alhorn hope, is only the beginning. As great as the response to their call has been, the need is far greater. Roughly 80 percent of HISD students are low-income.
"In many households, books are luxury items," Barnes recently told the Chronicle. "Food and shelter have to come first. How can we not do something about that?"
One comment made several points in a response:
The person suggested that parenting needed to be tried...Toss the xbox, hide the TV cord, make the kid get a summer job (I, myself, was mowing lawns and running errands for neighbors by age 12, and a community volunteer by age 14, all year long) and read a book a week. Learning all sorts of new skills may make the kid tired, but he or she will learn the value of an education.
I was inspired to write an essay, in response, and submit it in hopes of it being published. As of this writing it has not (It's possible I sent it to the wrong email address, as I have since learned they have one for letters and one for essays.) so I am sharing it here.
Dear Houston Chronicle:
The editorial in the 5/28/13 edition of the Houston Chronicle about a volunteer effort to get the children of Houston more interested in reading (Shelf Life) caught my attention.
I grew up in a single parent home, with 2 younger sisters and a Mother who didn’t work for a number of reasons I won’t go into; we were low-income, sustained by government checks and what extra money my mother and later I earned for helping neighbors, from the late 60’s thru the 80’s.
Growing up, mom tried to instill a passion for reading in her children and, in me, it took with a vengeance. From the time I was ten I remember trips to thrift stores for clothes meant I could also hunt down 1930’s to 50’s era Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew books for a quarter each. Later, beginning in middle school I became interested in Star Trek and later history, and even comic books as an adult, spending what money I could spare to build book collections I cherished through college, on into my adulthood.
I donated my complete Hardy Boy & Nancy Drew collections to my elementary school where, I later learned, they were extremely popular for years.
A program such as the one you describe in your editorial is cool, but there has to be a way to remind parents that they don’t have to take their kids, especially the younger ones, to Barnes and Noble or any regular bookstore for them to find worthy, entertaining reading material to fire up their creative imagination. Thrift stores, used book stores, library stores and sales, yard sales and swap meets are a goldmine for those families who must watch their spending.
Reading made me a more engaged, smarter, student, firing up my imagination and interest in my community and the world, as I grew older, in many ways that led to seeing letters to the editor published in local newspapers, magazines, and comic books, getting an essay published in a Star Trek fanzine, followed by the same piece appearing in a published Star Trek anthology.
In 2002 I took up blogging, re-connecting with a creativity that had taken a decade long powder. As a writer, editor and publisher, I am a poet, storyteller, commentator, reviewer, journalist and more, with the goal of turning my material into books, e-books, and chapbooks, at last; and creating new material as well, even finding freelance work if possible.
I have given presentations, read my poetry at open mics and recently returned from the Blog Paws Pet Blogging and Social Media conference in Virginia; a valuable opportunity to network and to learn.
I am new to Texas and to Houston, having come here to find a new life (I'm unemployed), only last September; my love of books, reading and writing continue to take me on an amazing journey and I hope that those children encouraged to read more will embark on a journey of their own.