I attended a meeting of system consultants trying to help their libraries serve traditionally underserved populations last week. It's always a treat to get together with other people who do your job, especially when those people are smart, thoughtful, dedicated and honest (those of you who love the youth services workshop for just that reason will understand what I mean, here).
One of the great things that happened at this workshop was an inspiring presentation by Victoria Sanchez of the Milwaukee Public Library about concrete things they have done at their library to make sure the Summer Library Program is reaching kids who are most at risk of losing ground during the summer. She started out by showing this fascinating and distressing video:
Pretty incredible! She stressed that this reading gap is income-based--not an urban/rural issue, or a race issue, but an income issue. Since all of us work in areas where there are plenty of kids who don't have access to as many books or diverse, literacy-rich experiences during the summer, it is crucial to think about how to reach those kids. As literacy leaders (I love this way of looking at librarians!), it is important for us to reach outside the boundaries of the library to get more kids involved. In Milwaukee, this has meant creating relationships and providing deposit collections onsite at summer programs. This is a process that has grown and developed over the year, along with a strong library-based program.
So, good for all of you for being in the trenches to help kids avoid the summer reading gap. What do you do to make sure your program is accessible to all the kids in your community?