Program helps reduce “summer slide”  by encouraging children to read during vacation days.

Third graders at P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy are excited about receiving fun books to read during the summer vacation from the BookSmart Community Advantage program. Photo by Marty Cheek

By Emily Shem-Tov

“Summer slide” is the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year over the summer school break. Since 2018, one of the cornerstone programs of local nonprofit BookSmart Community Advantage (BCA) has been aimed at helping to prevent the Summer Slide by providing books to local students to read over the summer.

Thanks to grants from Morgan Hill Rotary and AAUW Morgan Hill, along with other individual donations, BCA was able to provide books to 3rd grade classrooms at El Toro Health Science Academy, Barrett Elementary, and PA Walsh Steam Academy, sending home over 200 students with a book to enjoy. Reading just 4 to 6 books over the summer has the potential to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores from the spring to the fall, so even small steps can be very beneficial.

Cinda Meister, co-owner of Booksmart and Emily Shem-Tov, BCA’s Vice President, distributed the books, which were chosen with input from teachers and school administration, to the three schools on June 5th. They were met by enthusiastic kids, librarians, and principals.

“We worked with the schools to pick out books targeting different reading levels and the teachers were able to match different books to the kids,” Meister said. “It’s one of my favorite programs that we run, along with the Gift of Reading in December, and it’s wonderful to have developed strong relationships with the schools and community to be able to make this happen.”

“It was great to see how excited the kids were to know that the books were for them!  They recognized some of the titles and were excited to get to take them home,” commented Emily Shem-Tov.

 “We want to thank the community and Book Smart for providing every 3rd grader with a book for reading,” said Shannon Rafat, principal of PA Walsh Steam Academy. “Giving our students access to books is the first step to decrease the reading summer slide.  When the books were presented to one of our classes, students were grinning from ear to ear. Our teachers and staff work hard to give students the tools to expand their worlds through literature.  We value every opportunity to increase their at home library especially over the summer.”

BCA is now gearing up for another summer of book-based fun by sponsoring the very popular Find Waldo Local Program, a city-wide scavenger hunt based on the famous book character Waldo of Where’s Waldo fame. The activity runs the whole month of July and culminates in a party with prizes and refreshments. Pick up your Waldo passport at BookSmart and between June 20th and the end of July and have some summer family fun while exploring a selection of local businesses!

BCA was formed in January 2017 as part of the Morgan Hill Community Foundation. BCA is closely aligned with BookSmart which has been operating in Morgan Hill for over 25 years.



Emily Shem-Tov is on the board of the BookSmart Community Advantage nonprofit. She wrote this for Morgan Hill Life.