Innovative child care and financial education for parents

Summer, when children are away from school, is a particularly vulnerable time for children’s education. Children at-risk, especially those living in poverty, lose the equivalent of two months of reading during the summer. Over time, this learning loss is compounded so that by the end of elementary school, they may be more than two years behind their peers in reading. Two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

Children who are involved in quality summer programs, have access to books, and are supported with appropriate reading instruction are able to maintain the skills acquired during the school year. THAT is why providing academic opportunities for low income children is a part of United Way’s innovative Summer Care program.

Summer Care began in 2005 to assist low-income, working families with child care. The program has evolved over time to its current form — impacting both adult financial stability and youth education goals.


  1. To address summer learning loss disparities of low-income children
  2. To provide free full-time child care during the summer for low-income families
  3. To provide financial education to the parents

Every child at the participating nonprofit agencies receives a Summer Bridge Activity book. This award-winning curriculum is designed to reinforce basic skills and prepare children for their next school year.

Last summer, in 29 sites across Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties,

  • more than 2,800 children completed daily academic activities with the Summer Bridge Book curriculum. Across all grades and sites, scores on the pre and post-tests increased by nearly 10%
  • 589 scholarships provided so adults don’t have to choose between quitting their jobs or leaving children with unskilled caregivers or family for summer.
  • 231 parents/caregivers participated in financial education classes so they can be better prepared to manage finances the following year.

Also, preservice teachers from the St. Petersburg College of Education and University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee provided intensive reading tutoring to 166 children. Of those, 96% had no summer learning loss. On average, participants increased reading ability by 8 months. In the Sarasota area, the program is known as SAIL (Summer Arts Integrated Learning) and takes place at Booker Middle School as part of the school’s Summer Transition program.