A Simple Bag of Books Can Help Beat Summer Slide

Aliyah had always been a reluctant reader.

While other students curled up with their favorite stories during reading time, Aliyah struggled to find books that captured her imagination.

That is until Aliyah was introduced to Books for Keeps, a nonprofit based in Athens, Georgia that offers kids the opportunity to choose 12 new books to keep and read over the summer. Since Books for Keeps’ founding, 240,000 books have gone home with kids at 11 elementary schools in their community.

With their help, Aliyah was able to walk into her school’s media center and find stories she was interested in and excited to read.

“You can put a book in a child’s hands that is on his or her grade level,” says Leslie Hale, Executive Director, “but a very different thing happens when a child picks out the books that they’re excited about.”

Giving kids a chance to choose books that interest them is especially powerful during the summer when they are out of school and at risk for summer slide.

Students from low-income households who don’t have access to books typically see their reading test scores drop over the summer, but the 4,300 kids (and growing) who participate with Books for Keeps actually improve their reading skills during that time.

And Aliyah was one of them.

“I just read all summer,” she told Leslie in the fall, “my brothers would go out and play and say, ‘don’t you want to come outside with us?’ and I would just say no, I want to stay here and read my books.”

After spending the whole summer with her nose buried in a book, reading doesn’t feel like the chore it used to — Aliyah now looks forward to independent reading. And what’s more: Aliyah shared that she now feels more engaged and confident at school.

And it all came from a simple bag of 12 books.

If you work with children in need, you can find books and resources to promote summer reading on the First Book Marketplace.