School is officially out, but the research is in that students still need to keep their minds active over the summer.
According to state testing data, 44 percent of third-grade students in the state already aren't reading at grade level.
In the summer, when students aren't in school, studies show that students are at risk of "summer slide" or "summer slump" and can slip further back in their academic progress in several subjects. The National Summer Learning Association reports that most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students are also prone to losing more than two months in reading achievement, due to lack of engagement over the summer.
Various local agencies, from libraries to schools to community centers, are aware of the risks kids face and have developed a range of summer reading and learning programs that students can participate in.
Local libraries through the Massachusetts Library System, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Boston Bruins, with support from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, have all teamed up to present a 2014 summer reading program that includes incentives and activities designed for children, teenagers and adults: "Fizz Boom Read," "Spark a Reaction" and "Literary Elements" respectively. The multidisciplinary program highlights the latest acronym in the academic world, STEAM -- Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
Many libraries across the commonwealth now offer the opportunity for people of all ages to register for a summer reading program online, either through the local library webpage or through the Massachusetts Library System website at libraries.state.ma.us or readsinma.org.
Visitors to are always welcome to stop by their favorite library for fun activities as well. For example, today at 1 p.m., the Adams Free Library will host a program called "Jungle Jim presents Mousetrap Science," which is free and open to the public (http://bit.ly/1lsjSD3).
Egremont Elementary School in Pittsfield took a couple of creative takes at motivating students to read this summer. The school hosted the first known Berkshire County "Battle of the Books." Previously, the school has hosted a literature trivia contest for schools within the district, but the program opened up to elementary schools around the county this year.
Egremont is currently sponsoring with its community partner, Berkshire Bank, a "Hit Learning Out of the Park this Summer" reading and math program. Not only will students be able to compete for reading the most minutes this summer, each student also will have the opportunity earn money in his or her name to be donated to a local charity.
The teachers and parents of the Becket Washington School sent home summer reading kits, including tip sheets and a free book, to each of its students in a homemade tote bag.
Various other community centers and organizations also will integrate literacy components into their summer camp programs.
The Pittsfield Family YMCA is offering from July 7 through Aug. 15, a free summer literacy program for third-graders. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Alliance of the YMCAs, it focuses on providing support for kids who are reading below grade level. The program will be held from 7 to 9:30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at Berkshire Community College. To register, call (413) 499-7650, ext. 11.
July 7 also marks the start of the YMCA Marilyn Hamilton Literacy Program, held at Pitt Park, in collaboration with the St. John's Lodge No. 10. This free program will include literacy, sports and field trip components each week. To register, call (413) 499-7650, ext. 45.
The Pittsfield Promise literacy initiative will continue to offer its Word of the Day and Book of the Week programs through The Eagle and other local businesses and organizations like Berkshire United Way. (Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1yNBpja)
For more summer reading tips and book recommendations for kids, by kids, check out this video produced with students of the Becket Washington School here: http://bit.ly/1r6l5YA.