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In Garland: Books, Games and Tips For Parents Help Kids Avoid The ‘Summer Slide’

On Monday, we learned about how a kid’s knowledge and skills take a hit during the summer break and what Dallas is doing citywide to tackle that problem. Today, we look at how one school district – Garland – is fighting the “summer slide” by arming its kids this summer with more than 50,000 books.


It’s a Monday afternoon inside Garland’s main library. A group of kids sit inside an auditorium where they eagerly wait for the woman known as the Creature Teacher.

“Hello, everybody,” says a librarian. “How are you?”

“Goooood,” the kids respond.

“Welcome to the Central Library, where I’m so excited to see you all,” says the librarian, who reminds them to sign up for the library’s reading program. If they do, they just might get a prize.

“I got a prize,” says a little boy.

“You got a prize? The librarian asks. “Yeah, it looks like he got his first prize which was a mini beach ball.”

“Yeah, and and I can play with it in our sarcuzzi,” the little boy says, trying to pronounce the word Jacuzzi. The adults in the room laugh.

Fun programs like these can get kids to read more. But schools in Garland aren’t depending on parents to take their children to the library. Before the school year ended, the district gave out 10,763 backpacks and more than 58,000 books to the families of students in Pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade.

Pat Mullins, the district’s family engagement facilitator, says most parents know what they should be doing with their kids during summer.

“But if have two or three jobs, like many of our parents do – we’re 77 percent free and reduced lunch,” Mullins says. “So if you’re trying to keep food on the table, you may not have time to go to the library, you may not have time, you may not have the money to purchase books.”

Mullins got the idea after attending a meeting hosted by the educational book company Scholastic. She and other educators there watched a video about the “summer slide” and what happens to kids when they go on summer break.

“And it just shocked us,” Mullins says.

She says the video described how this summer learning loss builds up over time. And if it continues, she learned, kids could end up years behind by the time they reach the fifth grade.

“You know, our goal in Garland ISD is to graduate everybody and to prepare them for life after high school,” Mullins says. “Well, if you are 2 ½ years behind in the fifth grade, what are you gonna do? You’re probably gonna drop out.”

Mullins says the district spent $227,000 on the books, backpacks and other materials. Garland’s Best Education Foundation kicked in $8,000. Each pack included 5 books personally selected by the students’ teachers. Nearly half of the packs contained books in Spanish and English. Each bag also included reading tips for parents, a daily reading log, a reading journal and a coloring book. The goal is to have kids read 20 minutes every day. And that’s not all – a set of math game cards was also thrown in.

Jamie Bruning’s son, Nikhil, who starts first grade in the fall, received one of the book-filled bags.

“My husband and I, we always enjoy any kind of tool that we get and so we see it as another resource for us to use,” Bruning says. “And we have the choice whether to use it or not, but I see it a real gift.”

Bruning’s son has autism, so learning can be especially challenging for him, she says. But so far, he seems to be pretty interested in a book that teaches the five senses.

“For us, that’s a huge step for him to pick one up, so it’s a process,” she says. “So we were real excited that he was willing to even pick up the first book, which means now we can actually dig into it with him.”

Bruning also thinks her son will be a little better prepared when he returns to school in August. After all, it’s pretty hard to slide when there are 50,000 books to break the fall.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.