Most educators and parents agree that summer reading is beneficial and can make the difference between a child reading at grade level or falling behind over the summer break. However, without defining an engaging and regular summer reading plan, children can easily lose this unique opportunity to enhance and grow stronger reading skills.
A number of researchers are finding that kids who actively participate in highly interactive, language-rich summer reading programs are better prepared for the fall and don’t have to relearn skills from the spring.
Research conducted by Johns Hopkins, Sociology Professor Karl Alexander found that the lack of summer reading contributes to the growing achievement gap, “Statistically, lower income children begin the school with lower achievement scores, but during the school year, they progress at about the same rate as their peers. Over the summer, it’s a dramatically different story. During the summer months, disadvantaged children tread water at best or even fall behind. It’s what we call ‘summer slide’ or ‘summer setback.’”
New Mexico’s K-3 Plus program has been extending the school year for over 10 years to support at-risk early elementary school children. Linda Goetze, Senior Researcher, at the University of New Mexico states that, “Summer learning is proven to be a cost-effective strategy for boosting achievement of young students.” In fact, she refers to studies that show returns between $7 and $16 for every $1 invested.
Dr. Goetze points out, “There is stronger evidence than ever that students need to be actively engaged in learning during the summer…Without these stimulating summer learning activities, students regress from where they were in the spring, and teachers have to waste time re-teaching material in the fall. Disparities in these activities contribute significantly to the achievement gap.”
In addition, struggling families who qualify for Title I programs often have limited access to learning resources like summer reading programs. James Kim, Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University emphasizes that, “Many people are aware that children lose reading skills over the summer and that low-income children fall behind, compared to their more advantaged classmates. We also know that kids who read a lot over the summertime sustain reading comprehension and vocabulary.”
Professor Geoffrey Borman, Professor of Education Policy at the University of Wisconsin recommends, “As a remediation strategy, summer school is a key policy, because it offers a way to provide struggling students with extra instructional time that they need to catch up to their peers.”
Unfortunately, not all summer reading is created equal. In order to positively impact a child’s summer reading experience we’ve collected 7 Best Practices to make summer reading more effective:
Match approximate reading level
Incorporate books that include a child’s interests
Select books that are rich in language nutrition
Set up a consistent reading schedule each week
Make reading a social activity with discussions and activities
Use incentives for reluctant readers
Target a minimum goal of 60 hours for the summer or 30 minutes a day
Although these 7 factors aren’t exhaustive they will provide a strong foundation for any child’s summer reading at home or in a school-based program.
Laurie Cavert, Director of Teacher Outreach at ED, points out the importance of making sure that kids are highly engaged with the text, “The more engaged you are in the text; the closer you’re going to read it. The closer you read it, the more you comprehend. And that process grows your skill.”
In fact, ignoring best practices may actually distract from the joy of reading or lead to minimal or no impact on a child’s reading skills. Professor Kim, also states that, “Reading is most effective when parents or family members can provide reading guidance and make sure kids understand what they’re reading.” In order to improve, comprehension, fluency and vocabulary, he recommends making summer reading engaging and highly interactive with open ended discussion questions about the text.
How can parents effectively engage kids in summer reading when summer reading programs don’t exist, are underfunded or don’t meet your child’s specific needs? With a little planning, parents can implement a “DIY” summer reading program at home!
We’ve incorporated the evidence supporting the efficacy of summer reading, especially for kids entering Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade, into the development of the Story Cove supplemental reading program. The 22 picture books are leveled for kids in these grades and since the stories came from the world’s great oral traditions, the language is easy to follow, comprehend and remember for young, emerging readers.
All of the stories are supported by differentiated lesson plans that are correlated with the Common Core Standards for Reading in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Each lesson plan includes discussion questions, activities, and worksheets that enrich the reading experience for any child. We supply all of the necessary resources for parents to keep their children reading throughout the summer months, all from the comfort of home. This option also gives parents and kids a chance to experiment with reading aloud and provides extra bonding time.
In addition, each picture book can be used with an online animated version of the story, a read-along version and a read-to-me version to make it easier for kids to comprehend the stories and practice their fluency skills.
Applying the range of academic research confirms that, “Small, individualized programs with parental involvement were all associated with greater effectiveness. Summer affords more freedom to digress from a prescribed curriculum, so you can study at a more leisurely, individualized pace.”
Combining these resources: picture books, lesson plans, learning activities and online animations make summer reading easier to implement than ever at a school-based summer program, in the library or at home with parents. These resources were carefully designed to make reading socially interactive and highly entertaining for kids as they strengthen their reading skills. Using these types of engaging resources can also help kids discover a life-long love of reading.