The Fruit Valley Community Learning Center staff has a goal: preventing the summer slide.

And not the kind found on the playground.

This slide is rooted in research demonstrating that without access to books over the summer, children’s learning can regress by two to three months.

It’s a real occurrence at Fruit Valley Community Learning Center, where nearly 90 percent of the student population receives free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of poverty.

“We see the slide every fall,” said Robin Turnbull, a Learning Assistance Program reading interventionist.

This year, she and other staff members decided to take a proactive approach. “If we can’t accelerate their learning, we want to help them maintain what they’ve learned,” she said.

To do this, the staff set a goal of collecting 1,500 books to send home with their students over the summer. They broadcast the message not only to the school, but also to the broader community.

With the help of the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association, they collected almost 2,000 books.

One week before school ended, each child, pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade, got to select a minimum of five books—more if they brought books from home to exchange.

“The kids were thrilled. It was one of the most fun days of the school year,” Turnbull said.

But the book swap won’t be the end of the summer reading promotions.

The Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association and Habitat for Humanity are working to install book kiosks in the area, including one by the elementary school’s entrance that will contain children’s books.

In addition, staff members will drop by the school to allow students to trade out their old books for new ones. Kids can earn prizes for their reading progress.

Said Turnbull, “We want to support ongoing reading.”