A University of Wisconsin-Madison study has found that the Kids Read Now program decreases or eliminates the reading losses associated with summer break
(TROY, Ohio) Sept. 10, 2019 — According to a new study of the program’s efficacy, Kids Read Now (KRN), a leading supplemental reading program designed to combat summer slide, completely negates summer reading losses for low-income students when fully implemented. Estimated at two months of learning each summer, those losses accumulate over time.
Designed for K–3 students, Kids Read Now allows students to create a list of nine books they want to read over the summer from a vast library of educator-approved titles. In the spring, participating schools host a Family Reading Night to encourage parental involvement. Each student receives three books from their list, with a new book to be delivered to their home throughout the summer each time they report completing a previous title. Each book comes with a set of questions to assist students with comprehension and help parents connect with their child’s reading. Students who complete all nine books receive a certificate of completion, a reward, and a celebration in the fall.
The new study, led by Geoffrey D. Borman, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that “when students and parents take advantage of the full complement of 9 books delivered by KRN, the results are…equivalent to approximately 2.5 months of learning, or nearly 28% of the learning that takes place over a typical school year.”
“Our results indicate that the impact of Kids Read Now can more than eradicate the entire two months of summer learning loss experienced by low-income students,” said Borman.
Other key findings of the report include the following:
- The average impact of KRN among all participating students is equivalent to 1.7 months of learning, or almost 20% of a full school year;
- With full implementation [reporting 9 books read] outcomes showing an impact of 0.18 standard deviations, KRN has “essentially the same” impact as more intensive and expensive school-based programs, which have an average impact of 0.19 standard deviations.
“At a cost of 50 cents per day, which can be fully reimbursable with title funds, KRN is 98% as effective as summer school reading programs,” said Leib Lurie, the CEO of Kids Read Now, “making it an economical and effective supplement to summer learning initiatives that is available to all students, augmenting targeted summer programs where significant RTI is required, and where transportation challenges impact those who cannot attend traditional summer programs.”
To read the full report, visit KidsReadNow.org. To attend a webinar on the results of the study, visit https://www.kidsreadnow.org/study.
About Kids Read Now
Kids Read Now (KRN) is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization on a mission to help all students become proficient readers as they enter fourth grade. KRN’s in-home summer reading program was pedagogically designed to prevent summer learning loss, which is responsible for 65% of the learning gap between economically disadvantaged students and their peers. The program has provided more than 800,000 books to 60,000 students in grades K–3 across the United States at no cost to the students or their families. To learn more, visit KidsReadNow.org.
In the mid-19th century, students did not see anything like the modern summer break. The rise of the summer break in schools is a product of a shift from rural to urban living. Early cities were hot and dirty. Parents who could leave the city to the cooler countryside did. This left schools half full and sweltering. With the rise of the summer heat also came the rise of diseases. Legislators saw that something had to be done about these two systems. The rural and urban calendars were blended together, with the urban need for a vacation in the summer becoming the dominant force in the schedule.
As the transition happened, questions were asked by those that studied education: what happens to student learning in those summer months? Many opinions emerged, but it was not until the 1990s when thorough research on the topic commenced. Harris Cooper and his colleagues published a paper called The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores: A Narrative and Meta-Analytic Review. This was the first paper to scientifically identify what many teachers knew — taking a break over the summer did impact child development. The paper called it the “summer setback” or, as we know it, the “summer slide.”
The researchers discovered that, of all the subjects, reading was the most vulnerable to the loss of levels. But not all students were equally as vulnerable. Upper- and middle-class students did not see the same losses that lower-class students saw. Without help, students in lower-income brackets could lose up to a full year of reading skills by the end of fourth grade. One reason that many experts felt low-income families lose more than their peers is access to resources. There are usually fewer books in the homes of lower-income families. Parents are generally working longer hours or have multiple jobs. This demand on their time makes it more difficult for them to take their children to the library or to read with them.
The problems caused by the summer slide typically manifest as students transition from third to fourth grade. Up until third grade, reading lessons are geared to teach students the mechanics of reading. When students move on to fourth grade, reading helps them learn lessons in classes like history, science, and English. If they are behind by fourth grade, there are grim statistics that become apparent:
- 1 in 10 will go to jail
- Those students are four times more likely to drop out of high school
- Only 1 in 27 will graduate from college
- A total of 86% will never earn more than minimum wage
These statistics are just the beginning of the possible outcomes for students with low literacy.
Lower-income families can stop the summer slide with a very simple solution. The number of books children have in their home is the best predictor of success as they go through school.
One reason that our program stresses children reading so many books over the summer is that it builds that home library without the student leaving home. Kids Read Now delivers self-selected books that children want to read. Even small home libraries encourage students to pick up books instead of turning on televisions or picking up digital devices.
There is a debate on whether or not to make school a year-round activity. While it would eliminate many of the issues that come from three months without school, many districts do not have the staffing or the resources to make it work. As long as we have a break for the summer, we will do all we can to ensure that no one slides back when the first bell rings in August!
The impact of the summer slide has been the focus of multiple studies over the past several decades. Over the course of their school career, students can lose up four years of education by not studying during vacation. This affects graduation rates, employment rates, and incarceration rates. The impact on society is well documented. What is not as well documented is the impact on the school itself.
The summer slide can be costly to school districts that do not take action to halt it. Many of the school districts in Ohio are facing reduced funding from the state over the next several years. This means that every dollar spent in the district must be spent wisely, balancing the advantages and disadvantages of every purchase for the district. Understanding the direct costs of the summer slide to any district’s budget is important.
- Up to two lost months – Many school districts accept that for the first two months of the year they will be refreshing the information students have lost over the summer. This is good news for the students that were not engaged in summer reading. For those that were engaged, this can mean they can disengage with classes early.
- Up to $1,500 spent – In 2002, the NEA stated that the average cost for a student per year is $7,000 (Ohio spends $6,000). That two months of lost class time costs a school district $1,555 ($1,300 in Ohio). In a city like Columbus, that means $75 million is spent annually helping students get caught up from their three month break from school.
- Reduced scores on standardized testing – The results of tests that students take to gauge their abilities has a large impact on funding for schools. These tests are ever evolving, and becoming more important in terms of determining funding for schools. Most schools see a drop each year in the Spring to Fall results on these tests, which can impact the funding the school receives.
- Poor schools are already at a disadvantage – According to a federal study, state and local governments spend an average of 15% less in poor and disadvantaged districts. This further impacts students, reducing their access to programs that could help them through the summer slide.
Fortunately, there are many programs that offer ways to mitigate or eliminate the summer slide. The least expensive ones are well managed summer reading programs that offer incentives for reading through the summer. The Kids Read Now summer reading program encourages stopping this slide by sending self selected books home for the family to enjoy. There are many places that offer summer reading camps as an option, taught by community volunteers or teachers.
Utilizing funds as a preventative measure instead of reacting to learning loss can save districts millions in revenue. Money that can be spent on new books, new facilities, and new programs to help teachers. This approach does not only help the school district manage its resources, it improves the lives of students by keeping their minds busy during the summer, ready to begin a new school year!