San Diego

‘Readers in the Heights' Program Combats ‘Summer Slide,' Helps Kids Read Over Summer Vacation

Reading opens up "a world of possibility" to these children, who sometimes lack access to books over summer

A summer literacy camp is helping to combat "summer slide," the tendency for kids to fall behind in their reading when school is out of session.

The United Way of San Diego County is hosting its second year of "Readers in the Heights," with their first library visit on Monday. The kids visited the City Heights Weingart Library on Fairmount Avenue.

Forty kids received their first library cards along with a tour of the facilities. They learned the difference between adult books and kid books and how to find them, as well as how to use the computers there.

Then, some librarians read to the children.

"Reading opens up a world of possibility, and so you can find a book about something that you didn't even really know you loved or you can find out everything that you wanted to know about something that you really do love," said Michelle Predko, a spokeswoman for United Way.

United Way officials said every kid risks sliding backward in their education during summer vacation. But it's even harder for kids whose parents are working multiple jobs, and some families don't have books available for their kids to read at home.

In an effort to prevent summer slide, the camp is working with 260 students from kindergarten through fourth grade. More than 200 volunteers are helping the students out, said United Way officials.

"They're opening up a world of discovery, and that's really what this program is about," added Predko.

At the camp, children read to the volunteers, who work individually and in small groups. According to United Way, the kids are encouraged to ask questions to develop critical thinking skills and play word games to build their vocabularies.

Most of the children live in City Heights, the area with the highest concentration of youth in San Diego County. United Way officials said that also means they have the highest number of vulnerable youth in the region.

"We want to make sure that kids know they have access to all kinds of books and computers and everything that the library has to offer," said Predko.

This Friday, the children will graduate the program at the City Heights Community Development Corporation's Metro Villas on 39th Street.

There will be 50 kids receiving their diplomas at the graduation ceremony, and a total of 260 students are graduating from the program that day.

Next Monday, there will be a family celebration party with 300 diverse families and students from City Heights commemorating the end of summer camp. There will also be a musical performance from the kids.

At the celebration, Laurie Coskey, Ed.D, president and CEO of United Way, will announce the students' final reading scores after the program.

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