One of the most restorative acts I engage in over the summer is reading. The pace of school can make it difficult to enjoy a good read on a regular basis. Summer reading is a luxurious treat – I bet I am not alone in my thinking and reading. So while the school year is a time to stay current with professional reads, summer can be a time to dive into old interests and new curiosities, with perhaps a few professional reads, too!
Last week alone, I’ve plowed through several great reads – The Mindful Child, And the Mountains Echoed, Switch, and various middle school reads. The contrast of this passion with the reluctance many children have towards summer reading weighs on my mind, especially during summer. Perhaps it’s because I have one child who reads one or more books a week and another who would prefer to be rolling and moving; books don’t generally offer that action. It keeps me on my toes and I know I’m not alone on this
So my inner-geek went hunting for some reminders of the hard data behind the importance of summer reading, the real – not just marketing message – behind “summer slump.” I was on a mission to locate some more lists of recommended books and to find something that really excites and invites my adolescents to read. I was searching more for reassurance that gently scheduling reading and writing each and every day this summer is the right thing to do and a compelling reason to hit the library as soon.
So consider this statement. Even if it is half-true, it’s reason for concern:
“Kids who don’t have educationally rich summers will be nearly three years behind their peers by the time they reach the end of the fifth grade… Much like we would expect an athlete or a musician’s performance to suffer if they didn’t practice regularly, the same thing is true for young people when it comes to reading performance.”
— Ron Fairchild, Founding CEO, National Summer Learning Association
Some facts on summer reading:
- A study in the Journal of Education for Students Places at Risk (April 2004) showed that reading four or five books during the summer can prevent the reading-achievement losses that normally occur over those months.
- Regardless of race, socioeconomic level, or previous achievement, researcher Jimmy S. Kim found, children who read more books fared better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who had read one or no books over the summer.
- Better readers read more than poorer readers, supporting the importance of extensive, successful reading experiences in the development of reading proficiency.
- Researchers Guthrie and Anderson found that there are any number of motivational and volitional factors that influence reading activity. For instance, children’s voluntary reading seems linked to past experiences as a more-successful or less-successful reader. A history of less-successful reading experiences produces a lessened interest in voluntary reading than a history of successful reading experiences. (This makes summer reading even tougher for struggling readers… another reminder to keep it positive!)
- A recent study by Harris Cooper, Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, estimates that summer loss for all students equals about one month on a grade-level equivalent scale.
It’s crucial our kids read in the summer. Like muscles, our brains and our bodies must stay conditioned to read. The habit of inquiry and reading is a life skill. While the methods and opportunities to read may shift, the fundamental actions of reading, processing, and synthesizing what we read remains constant and vital. We are lucky to have so many ways to foster a love of reading and the opportunity. Give them the leeway in choosing the details – what, when, how, the format (digital, print, auditory, etc.) These choices go a long way in garnering and sustaining their interests. Stay attuned to their passions, cultivate their curiosity and offer options.
Now, on to a bit of housekeeping…
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- Have an awesome weekend – and make some time to plunk down with a good book!