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How Arizona Fought the Summer Brain Drain

• ExcelinEd

line of kids reading

September marks National Literacy Month! Today’s post is by Arizona Literacy Director Terri Clark, sharing how Arizona focused on student literacy this summer to ensure children returned to the classroom this fall with a running start. 

Learning shouldn’t end when the last school bell rings in June. But for some kids, the summer void can be devastating.

If students aren’t engaged in enriching learning activities over the summer, what they learned the previous school year will begin to fade. And when kids head back to school in the fall, these students have to spend weeks, if not months, catching up.

Thankfully, the Grand Canyon state recognized the seriousness of the summer slide and rallied around students to ensure they returned to the classroom with a running start.

The state’s public-private partnership Read On Arizona worked to highlight the importance of summer learning and combat summer learning loss. Read On Arizona partnered with public libraries and state agencies to drive the state’s annual summer reading program as a springboard to involve educators, students and parents in choosing summer reading materials based on interest and reading ability.

Arizona Governor Ducey and Mrs. Ducey even joined the effort by filming a PSA focused on the importance of summer reading.

Participation has been impressive. Over 34 percent of preschoolers and 52 percent of first- through eighth-grade students participated in the 2014 summer reading program.

This summer, some local school districts and charter schools also offered summer instruction as part of the implementation of Move On When Reading, a program mandated by state law to help K-3 students learn to read.

According to the statute, districts and charter schools must choose a method of intervention and remediation for struggling readers. Local education agencies choosing summer school must create a summer school program for third-grade intensive reading interventions that includes sufficient time, a comprehensive assessment system and evidence-based intervention instruction.

In addition to this state-wide collaboration, many individual Read On communities have spearheaded additional initiatives:

  • Read On Avondale and Goodyear helped support the “Summer Safari” reading event hosted by Eight Arizona and PBS. This event allowed community partners to distribute free reading activities, innovative educational materials for parents and high-quality children books to members of the local community.
  • Read On Cochise County supported the “Reading Together Time” family engagement program that provides reading activities and story time for children ages three to five.
  • Read On Mesa delivered the “12 Books a Home” program that aimed to build a home library for each kindergartner student at six Mesa elementary schools. Additionally, book fair distributions were held during summer school for pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade children. Through these efforts, over 7,000 books were provided to 600 students prior to the 2015 summer break.
  • Read On Scottsdale started the “Reading Buddies Program” at its local library. This program matched 66 trained teen volunteers with 83 struggling readers between first and fourth grade.
  • Read On Tempe partnered with AARP Experience Corps and the local Boys and Girls Club to deliver the volunteer literacy tutoring program, “Summer Brain Gain—Read!” to combat summer learning loss. Nearly 60 K-2 students participated in this twice-weekly program that reinforced fun reading and learning activities.
  • Read On Tucson launched the “My Summer Library Program” in twelve elementary schools to provide each rising kindergarten student twelve age-appropriate, self-selected books for three consecutive summers. United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona also provided nearly 14,200 new books to students and donated almost 1,200 books to the local library.
  • Read On Yuma created the “Summer Book Program,” which provided 332 K-3 children with twelve, self-selected books to read over the course of the summer. Additionally, a “Kinder Camp” was also launched to provide 84 students and families a preschool exposure opportunity. The Kinder Camp included a school orientation, parent/teacher meetings, a school tour and even backpack/school supplies for the children.

We’re so proud of our families and our communities for taking these critical steps to strengthen literacy skills for Arizona’s youngest citizens. These actions impact our future, creating a future where our students and our state thrive.

Terri Clark is the Arizona Literacy Director for the State of Arizona. Contact Terri at

Check out these posts to see how other states focus on summer reading:


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