School’s out for summer – time to pick up that book!

Most kids are ecstatic when the last day of school rolls around—and for good reason.

No more homework.

No more tests.

And no more stressing about grades.

For the next few months, they can kick back and relax—sort of.

When school’s out, educators worry that kids will fall behind and lose what they learned, experiencing what’s called the “summer slide.”

Children from low-wage families slide a lot further, often starting school with a two-month lag in math and a three-month delay in reading. By middle school, these students have lost two full years of learning, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

The NSLA says summer learning loss is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth, and one of the strongest contributors to the high school dropout rate.

Boosting summer learning—and working with schools, summer programs, employers and other nonprofits—is part of United Way’s strategy to help kids succeed in school, work and life. This month, United Ways are rallying together for a Day of Action, a worldwide community-volunteering event that focuses, in part, on preventing summer learning loss.

And, these dedicated volunteers are already making a huge difference. For example, thousands of kids in need are getting new or gently used books to read during their summer break.

Nearly 7,000 kids in Erie, Pennsylvania, received at least one book to take home for the summer, thanks to a book drive led by United Way of Erie County and supported by community businesses and residents. In total, more than 21,000 books have been distributed in the past two years.

In similar fashion, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona gave free books to 1,700 kindergarten to second grade students as part of Read on Tucson, an initiative that ensures all children in Pima County will read at grade level by third grade.  Since 2011, the program has donated more than 66,000 books to local students.

You can do your part to help kids keep learning this summer. Share a book with a child in your life and reach out to your local United Way to find out how you can get involved. Let’s all make sure that when the first day of school comes around, kids are engaged and ready to succeed.