COMMENTARY Margaret Hill

Margaret Hill is chairwoman of the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County.

When you think of reading with a child, maybe your son, daughter or grandchild, it’s a happy thing. Perhaps it’s the bedtime story, maybe it’s a favorite book they want to read again and again. But maybe you didn’t know how much more it is than just a fun moment to share together. This is the cognitive foundation for future success. It is especially crucial for children in disadvantaged homes where experiences in elementary school years can impact whether they earn a high school diploma and continue to college.

Research shows there continues to be a literacy and academic achievement gap between children in poverty and their more affluent peers. However, when children in low-income homes have resources for reading, and reading is a priority in the home, they do better academically.

The nationwide problem of differences in learning levels for economically disadvantaged children has been referred to as the “30 million word gap.” By the age of 3, children born into low-income families hear roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.

Researchers, psychologists, educators and early childhood development specialists have found that to equalize differences in children’s development, a greater effort must be made to increase children’s cognitive experiences.

Reading together is a perfect way to do it.

With summer just around the corner, we believe this is a great time to think about how much learning can be lost over the summer when kids are out of school. This is known as the “Summer Slide” — the time when knowledge gained in school is lost because of the decreased academic engagement over the summer break.

Two months of learning loss results in major summer brain drain. For example, summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of ninth grade achievement gaps in reading. Disadvantaged children often fall behind their peers who continue to steadily build their skills over the summer months. Because we care about all children in our communities and their future well-being, we are compelled to take action to promote literacy resources.

 Here are three tips for parents:

1. Set a goal to have your kids read six age-appropriate books over the summer.

2. Let children select appropriate reading materials for themselves. 

3. Read out loud together and gently correct mistakes.

 We hope parents will consider bringing their children to our free book giveaway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 9. The event is called Summer Book Fest 2018 and Resource Fair at the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County, 696 S. Tippecanoe Ave., San Bernardino.

We were generously granted books by the Molina Foundation as part of their Launch Into Reading initiative, and we are happy that we can give away thousands of these brand new books for children of all ages.

New books are often not financially feasible for parents to provide and we are here to help. And parents, we are having a resource fair at the Book Fest event with over 20 agencies on-site to provide information, goods and services to help families.

Thank you parents, grandparents, care-givers, and other adults who encourage children to read. Your efforts make a difference in the lives of youth in our communities.

Margaret Hill is chairwoman of the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County.

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