It’s been almost a month since that last bell rang ushering Greenbrier’s Eastside Elementary students from its doors into their vacation break.

As the summer days approached, though, faculty and staff found a way to make sure students had an opportunity to stay engaged in their learning.

“As a way to wrap up this great year, Eastside Elementary wants to give each student a gift,” the school posted to its Facebook page on May 16. “We have enjoyed getting to know all our students and seeing them grow as leaders and readers.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. In fact, one study conducted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that children who don’t read throughout the summer lose at least two months of reading development.

Based on the research, the summer reading setback “is the primary reason for the reading achievement gap between children who have access to reading materials at home and those who do not.”

Principal Mandi Dunlap told the Log Cabin Democrat on Tuesday not only did they want to provide a small gift to all students — “a book seemed fitting” — they also desired to provide parents a resource to help their children during the summer time.

Dunlap said every student between kindergarten and fifth grade who attend Eastside received a book before school let out, geared toward their different levels according to age. Titles included two books from the “Pete the Cat,” series created by James Dean, “Wind in the Willows,” by Kenneth Grahame, “Dinosaurs Before Dark,” from the Magic Tree House collection by Mary Pope Osborne and a rendition of “Robin Hood.”

“We wanted books at the students’[s] reading level so they would enjoy reading them independently,” Dunlap said.

In addition, she said, all incoming 2020-2021 kindergarteners were also given gifts.

“Students were so eager to start reading that they began to read as soon as they received them at the end of the day,” Dunlap said.

The elementary principal submitted multiple pictures of students standing in lines, huddled in groups or sitting on the ground, waiting for their cars or buses during end-of-day dismissal.

“Kids were reading the last week of school while waiting to go home! How cool is that,” Dunlap said, excitedly.

This is the second time the school has put forth the initiative.

“The school’s favorite part of this initiative is the joy we see in students when they get their books,” Dunlap said.

Between last year and this year, she counted, students have received around seven books throughout the two years as gifts from Eastside.

“We watch all year for the best deal on books for students,” Dunlap said. “We hope to continue to add to their home library and continue to develop a love for reading.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the following have been deemed some of the best ways to keep a child active in literature during the summer months:

• Encourage children to read books they enjoy for at least 30 minutes per day. In turn, they will be more likely to engross themselves in material they chose, rather than material that is forced on them.

•Provide reluctant readers with incentives that will encourage them to do their daily reading.

• Make reading a social act, establishing a specific time during the day when all members of the family gather and read on their own or take turns reading the same book aloud.

• Connect reading with family outings by considering common books with material that links the adventure to learning. For example, consider a book about fish or the ocean when visiting an aquarium.