15-year-old Stevie Bentley can’t wait to head into grade 10.
She is especially excited, like many children, to be back in a school building for full-time classes, as last year’s virtual learning was a challenge.
“I’m pretty excited for this. Hope it will be better. … Last year was a real struggle, ”she said.
But before that, the South High School student has some work to complete for summer school, which she has found difficult to do at home. This is why she attends the Parsons branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, where there are specialists who can solve technical problems and provide academic assistance as part of its Credit Recovery Center.
“I’m really bad for, like, my motivation,” she said. “I just came here to get help because I can’t do it on my own. “
This help is a valuable change of pace for students like Stevie, who have had to do without the fully in-person services of the library – and the school – for over a year. This summer, that help from the Columbus Libraries returned in an effort to keep students on their toes before the next academic year.
Kathy Shahbodaghi, director of public services at Columbus Metropolitan Libraries, called this year’s summer programming “specific to community recovery,” with the aim of helping students bounce back from a year of virtual learning.
“I’m very happy, like everyone I’m sure, that all of our local school systems are planning to send students out, you know, to school five days a week,” she said.
Before class resumes, libraries have a number of their own offerings. Six of the system’s branches have two-week summer reading and writing camps for elementary school students in July, both in person and virtually.
And Shahbodaghi said the library is offering more indoor and outdoor “round trip” activities this summer. Some programs are interactive ‘take-and-go’ style, where students can come to the library, work on a trade or project, and take it home. Some focus on literacy engagement.
The Library’s Summer Reading Challenge – an annual reading program that aims to motivate children and parents to read every day – is also in full swing. Participants can follow their reading online until July 31, with a chance to enter a raffle and win prizes.
Shahbodaghi said the programming is an effort to combat what is known as “the summer slide” – a decline in a student’s reading skills and other academic skills during summer vacation – which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“If you’re a kid in the summer who doesn’t have any learning in progress and you lose two months, when your peers don’t, that’s the source of so much disparity among the students. It’s that summer learning loss, ”Shahbodaghi said.
For students like Stevie, Credit Redemption Centers were first offered at two libraries – Parsons and Northern Lights. They conclude on Friday.
Heather West, supervisor of youth services at the Parsons branch, said the welcome program, which runs Monday through Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., is useful for students who need to catch up. late in their summer work and for seniors who complete their remaining credits required to graduate.
“I think we’ve had a lot of students who, you know, have had a rough year with COVID. The main thing we’re noticing is there’s still a lot of confusion, and they don’t know where they’re at, ”West said. “And so coming here was kind of the first step in figuring out what they need to do to start getting back on track to get their credits back over the summer.”
The pandemic really hampered the efforts of libraries last summer. Not only have many programs gone virtual, those offered online have seen fewer participants.
Participation in the Summer Reading Challenge last year was down from previous years. In 2019, for example, 49,000 young people took part in the challenge. This number fell to 6,000 in 2020; this year, participation rates stood at 15,321 young people as of Tuesday.
Shahbodaghi said library officials hope the variety of in-person and virtual programs will allow students to re-acclimate to the non-virtual space and spark their interest in reading and various subjects before entering class again. .
She said that the vast collection of books of all kinds in librariescan make it easier for children to continue reading throughout the summer, which is important.
“The thing parents should also remember is that while summer can be a time of fun and relaxation for their children – and it should be – this is also the time when a certain structure needs to be. continue, so that the child is encouraged to read. every day, ”Shahbodaghi said.
Shahbodaghi said the full impact of the summer programming reintroduced to the library may not be known until students resume classes in the fall and resume standardized testing.
West said she realizes the challenges students face in the 2020-21 school year with limited in-person engagement, and hopes summer programming, such as credit recovery centers, will help. to build confidence in the abilities of students before starting the new year.
“I hope that by having that connection in person, they will… accomplish what they need to start the school year, ready to move on to the next year, and what’s next for them,” West said.
For Stevie, his time in the library was definitely worth it.
“It just puts me in the school setting, because I have a hard time doing it at home,” she said. “It’s just better because I know someone is there with me, to help me.”