Increase Access to Books in Your Community this Summer

Katie Woo getting books from the library

Increase Access to Books in Your Community this Summer

March 28, 2022

When the final bell rings and the school year comes to a close, many children are setting foot into a summer long break from reading. This is known as the “summer slide” and refers to the learning loss that occurs when school is not in session, largely attributed a child’s lack of reading. But the absence of reading can’t merely be chalked up to children avoiding books for outdoor activities. A lot of children, specifically those in underserved communities, simply don’t have access to books.

Katie Woo and friend checking out books at the libraryKatie Woo and friend checking out books at the library


Book Deserts

You may have heard the term “food desert” as it pertains to an area that lacks accessibility to affordable or healthy food options. This is very much the same concept.

As defined by a book desert is a geographic area where reading materials are difficult to obtain. This term was coined by Unite For Literacy to call attention to structural inequalities that compromise children’s reading development. These areas lack public libraries and stores that sell books. Typically, the average household finds books to be unaffordable. The schools in these book deserts may not have enough funds to purchase new books. 67% of the schools and programs in our nation’s lowest-income neighborhoods can’t afford to buy books at retail prices.


The Impact

Lack of reading materials in the home and neighborhood can put children at a disadvantage to their peers with access. Children who don’t read over the summer can lose up to two months of development. However, students who do read over the summer gain a month is proficiency of reading. Reading just 4 to 6 books over the summer has the potential to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores!

Because of this learning loss, many educators must take time out of the new school year to reteach material. This can take anywhere from four to six weeks away from the new year, but it is critical to bring all students up to speed.

Increasing access to books increases the amount of reading children do, and increased reading leads to improved achievement in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary.


How We Can Help

Katie Woo and friend reading a book togetherKatie Woo and friend reading a book together

There are many ways to help your communities fight a lack of book accessibility. Whether you are a teacher, librarian, parent, or just want to do your part in your neighborhood, we have options for you to give kids the ultimate gift—a love of learning!

Reading is Reading: No Matter the Format!

Encourage children to read, whatever strikes their fancy! (And is age-appropriate, of course!) Graphic novels, manga, and comic books are REAL books and count as reading! Audio books are another great option. Reading and learning are still happening! Self-selection is imperative to making reading fun.

Make Reading Part of Your Summer Routine

Kids learn by example! If everyone in the home makes time to read each week, even a small amount, during the summer, young readers are more likely to join in.

Send Books Home Over the Summer

Educators, if you have the means, send kids off to summer break with some books they can keep and read. If you are a member of the community, connect with schools in your area to see if you can donate books for kids to keep and bring home.

Keep the School Library Open

Look into if there are ways to keep the school library open even if it’s just for a few hours during the summer or explore ways to bring the library to students. There are some ingenious ways to give students access to books, including bookmobiles and book bikes!


Donate new or gently used books to locations that children can access for free. This includes Little Free Libraries or book drives. Speaking of book drives…

Host Book Events

To receive donations of books, you could host a book drive or a book swapping event! Grab a book and get the neighborhood together!

Work With a Charity

librarian helping Katie Woo pick out a booklibrarian helping Katie Woo pick out a book
  • Little Free Library: Based in Hudson, Wisconsin, their mission is to be “a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.”
  • Bess the Book Bus: A Tampa based mobile literacy outreach dedicated to narrowing the achievement gap created by poverty. They build home libraries and a love for reading in our most underserved communities across the USA by making the joy of book ownership a reality for our kids.
  • Pajama Program: Distributes millions of cozy pajamas and inspiring books to qualified Community Partners (homeless shelters, foster care agencies, group homes, etc.) that work directly with children facing adversity across the United States, including Puerto Rico.
  • First Book: Provides books and other resources to classrooms and programs serving children in need, from birth to age 18, to remove barriers to quality education for all kids.
  • Kids Need to Read: Helps children discover the joy of reading and the power of a literate mind by providing inspiring books and literacy programs to underfunded schools, libraries, and community agencies across the United States, especially those serving disadvantaged children.
  • The Free Book Buggie: The Free Book Buggie travels around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area providing free books to children ages birth to teenagers. “We feel that children should be able to have access to books anytime and because we know not all families have the resources to obtain books for their children”.
  • Room to Read: Helps children in historically low-income communities develop literacy skills and a habit of reading, and by supporting girls as they build skills to succeed in school and negotiate key life decisions.

There is no shortage of ways to help the children in your community have access to books to develop into young readers. Combatting the summer slide and book deserts offer the opportunity for kids to grow their literacy skills and of course, fall in love with reading and learning.