Teachers, volunteers teamed up to keep “summer slide” at bay

While many students are thrilled when schools close for the summer, they often lose touch with the resources that keep their reading on track. The dreaded “summer slide,” as educators call it, can take a month or more to combat once the kids are back in the classroom.

For young students at Jackson Elementary in Lawrenceville, the impact of the “slide” has been lessened, thanks to the efforts of teachers, staff members and volunteers who took a reading classroom into the community this summer.

“I had teachers who were really worried about our Spanish population because many of our parents speak only Spanish,” said Principal Kara Dutton. “We have about 1,450 students in kindergarten through fifth, with a 33% ESL population.”

Dutton green-lighted the idea of two teachers to go into one of the school’s predominately non-English speaking neighborhoods once a week. The community offered a meeting spot and chairs, and the teachers brought blankets, books and games each Wednesday morning for seven weeks through the heat of summer.

Kindergarten teachers Toni Berger and Kathy Julian spearheaded the effort by sending a letter to parents in the targeted area and laying out their plan. The response was positive from both parents and other teachers.

“We put five volunteer slots down for each week, and they filled up within two days,” said Berger. “But we welcomed anyone who wanted to come, so we averaged about 10 teachers each week. The kids were excited to see which teachers would show, and they loved that we made the effort to come see them over the summer.”

“Even some of the teachers’ kids came along,” said Dutton.

About 25 to 30 youngsters showed up for the morning program that had kids reading to kids, volunteers leading small groups and teachers playing literacy games. Berger and Julian also arranged for MUST Ministries to bring lunch, and several teachers showed up with popsicles, brownies and other treats.

“The teachers were from different grades, and some middle schoolers we had taught came and worked as helpers,” said Julian. “Some high schoolers even showed up. A wide variety of activities and skills were covered with no money spent.”

While no data was kept to track the impact of the program, both Berger and Julian are enthusiastic about the results.

“I noticed kids I haven’t taught are waving at me in the hallways,” said Julian. “A connection is there from working with them over the summer.”

Berger has one of the summer students in her classroom now. “He’s doing really well,” she said. “The main thing was to keep the information fresh in their minds.”

Dutton hopes to host the program again next summer. “I’m never going to say no to an idea like this that gives back and brings together students, parents and teachers.”

Information about Jackson Elementary is online at jacksones.org.


Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.