By Aliya Masood, for the Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- Just before school let out in June, a group of second-graders at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School waited as their teacher handed each of them a summer reading bag. They leaned forward in their seats and fidgeted in anticipation of their gifts.
The school has developed a program called "A Summer in the Black Lagoon." Each child in kindergarten through fourth grade receives a black bag of books for the summer.
The name comes from a book "The Teacher from the Black Lagoon" by Mike Thaler, said teacher and librarian Debbie Cannada. As she handed out the bags, she told students that after they read the books they could call a phone number and take a quiz. If they passed, they would get a party.
Cannada said she stole the idea from Heather Mottesheard, her friend and the librarian at Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
"Research has proven that if children do a small amount of school-type work every day, they don't lose as much over summer," Cannada said. Researchers call it the "summer slide."
The National Summer Learning Association says that a century of research shows that students can lose academic skill when school is out. One antidote is to engage children in reading during the summer. In 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that fourth-graders who reported reading for fun scored higher on the NAEP reading test than those who did not read.
Cannada's school uses a modified calendar, so students are out for just six weeks in summer, minimizing their academic loss. To help students further, Cannada hopes to coax them into reading for fun during those weeks.