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15 minutes a day: How free library resources can help bridge a gap for low-income families

The library's summer reading program gives families free books when their child tracks their reading for 15 minutes a day.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — After a year for the books, many educators are encouraging families to pick up their own books this summer.

Jacksonville Public Library is a free resource that workers there want families to take advantage of. The library's summer reading program gives families free books when their child tracks their reading for 15 minutes a day.

"Fifteen minutes is a magic number," said Chris Boivin, assistant director of community relations and marketing at Jacksonville Public Library. "When you do that every day you're going to start to perform above. You're going to build your vocabulary, you're going to build your imagination. Not only do we see that, again, in the research, but we see that in the library."

Boivin says 5,000 to 10,000 children participate in the summer reading program, which is only a small fraction of the number of students in Duval County public schools.

The National Summer Learning Association defines the “summer slide” as learning loss that happens to children from lower-income families during the summer. There are even reports some researchers believe more than half of the achievement gap for children living in poverty and for non-white children is due to summer learning loss.

"One thing that happens there is they don't have as many books and materials that are the right age for their kids," Boivin said. "They just can't afford those kind of things to keep in the home. If you come to the library there's lots of materials here and also if you participate in the summer reading program you can get some books to start to build that."

Get your library card at any library. You can also sign up on the library's website to get online activities.

Statistics show children can lose two months in reading and math skills over the summer.

At the end of June, there will be meetings at five different libraries to get public input on what library users would like to see changed in their libraries.

The meetings are from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the following libraries on the following dates:

  • Westbrook Library, June 21
  • Eastside Library, June 22
  • Brentwood Library, June 24
  • Murray Hill Library, June 28
  • Dallas Graham Library, June 29