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.
There is no way it can be stressed enough: the benefits of having books in the home are crucial to future reading success. Think about your children’s toys. If there are toys in the house where children have access, they are going to play with them. The same holds true with books. The easier it is for children to access books, the more likely they are to read and interact with them. And the more they get used to them being around the home, the more they will ask for them.
Building your own home library can be intimidating. Books can be expensive; you cannot always be sure of what your children will like, and there is the big question – how do I afford to get all of these books? This is especially important since many studies show that low-income families benefit the most from home libraries. Such libraries give children easier access to books.
Many parents of low-income families work multiple jobs and odd hours. This makes it difficult for them to get their children to libraries or other places that may have free access to books. School libraries help, but only if students go there frequently. Having a robust library in the home means that there is access to books all of the time. All your child needs to do is grab the book he or she likes, find a comfortable spot and start reading!
What are the best strategies for building a home library? Here are a few:
- Create a space. If you are going to fill your home with books, you are going to need space to put them. Most houses have at least one corner where a bookshelf and a chair will fit. Ideally, this is in a quiet area where the child can focus on the book. A spare closet can also be used as a nook if there is little room in the home, but you have extra closet space.
- Be thrifty. Books can be expensive, but they do not have to be. There are many ways to fill a home with books and not break your budget. The public library is still a good place to start; it will periodically sell off its books to make new room in its collection. The library’s books may be older, but they are still ready to be read! There are retail stores, like Half-Price Books, that sell children’s books for low prices. You can look for deals there as well. Many thrift stores have sections for used books as well.
- Start a book swap. Your children’s tastes are going to change over time. That means some of the books they loved just a few months ago could end up on the shelf collecting dust. Having a book swap amongst friends and neighbors is a great way to get rid of some older books and keep the home library fresh. New materials to read will keep your children going to the shelves over and over!
- Let them guide you. Allowing children to select their own books is a major way of ensuring they will want to read. Shelves of books you choose for them because they are the “right” books to read are not going to have the same draw. Let them fill their shelves with the things they want to read. This will give you a better idea of what books and topics they want to read. You can suggest a few titles you would like them to read based on their own selections.
- Keep it organized! Work with your children to establish a way of keeping the books organized. It can be by title, subject, author, or even book color! This will keep them engaged with the collection even when they are not reading. Giving them their system means that they know where the books they want are, when they want them.
A house with books in it has a long-term impact on building lifelong learners. They gain grade levels over time, improve their literacy, and are shown that books are not just for the classroom or homework. But compiling a library of books is not something that can be done overnight. With patience and a keen eye for a good deal, you can have a home library your child will be able to gravitate to when looking for a good book to read. And you will be helping to build the love of reading in a student.
I was ten years old when I found myself gazing with wonder at the brass chandeliers, marble floors, carved woodwork and dozens of stern portraits gazing down on us in the ornate and imposing hearing room in the U.S. Capitol.
It was the 1960s and my mother, Ellen Lurie, was testifying before a joint committee of Congress about her work in Harlem and the South Bronx, where she was bringing to life a learning program that started in a grungy basement with a handful of kids whose parents needed lower cost daycare so they could work. Over the course of five years, the program had grown to serve 5,000 preschool children in dozens of basements and community centers in low-income neighborhoods. The team had added curriculum elements, homemaking advice, clothing drives, food banks and training for caregivers.
The surroundings might have been awe-inspiring, but my mother, who was under enormous pressure to obtain funding for this vital but unproven program, appeared unperturbed as she coolly addressed the members of Congress in her Jackie Kennedy-era finery, with a pert hat, big brooch, and tweed suit. As we left, my uncle, who had driven us down to Washington, asked my mother where she got some of the statistics she had set forth.
“I made ‘em up,” my mother replied defiantly.
My uncle, a lawyer who would soon argue (and win) a flag-burning case before the Supreme Court, was shocked. “But Ellen, you were under oath!”
She turned to him, raised her right hand, and said, “David, I swear to God, we’ve seen the results, and by the time these guys figure it out, we will have the data.”
She must have been persuasive; Congress funded that program as part of a new initiative called Head Start. And yes, over time, the data came through. Early learning matters. Over the past 55 years, Head Start has helped millions of children get a better start to education.
This was where I made lifelong friends from all backgrounds. But it was also where I learned the harsh reality of the rich/poor gap. Too many of my 5th-grade classmates could barely read, rarely spoke in class, and almost never showed any evidence of having done homework assignments. Some of them stayed home on assembly days because only one brother in the family had the mandatory white shirt and tie. Many had already given up and were drifting through school, like the debris we could see from our bus stop, floating down the horribly-polluted Hudson River.
A year later, I was in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem listening to Malcom X decry racism and urge followers to read and learn. Although he dropped out in 8th grade when a teacher sneered at a Negro’s ambition to be a lawyer, Malcolm later preached, “My alma mater was books, a good library …. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” Books and reading were his solution for escaping oppression and poverty. Then three shots rang out, silencing his voice forever. The assassinations of the tumultuous 1960s continued. I was hustled out of the building by my mother, but the images were seared forever.
I left my New York City childhood behind, but years later these memories came flooding back. In 2010, my fast-growing-but-not-yet-profitable company was in trouble. We had hired a few dozen folks for what we could then barely afford. These were hard-working, dedicated people from blue-collar families in our small Ohio town. Most had no more than a high school diploma. And they were struggling as the responsibilities and technical skills required grew exponentially.
We needed more mental horsepower. Unfortunately, college graduates were hard to find in our local labor pool. Fewer than 25 percent of the adults in our county (and generally less than 32 percent nationally) had a post-secondary degree—this in a decade in which 70 percent of all new jobs required one. Counties like ours were heading for the kinds of disastrous economic declines seen in Detroit and other rust-belt cities. Even a donation to enable a nearby college to open a campus in our county couldn’t fix the problem. Our college program paid for dozens of employees to get degrees, earn more, and bring greater value to the enterprise and their community, but we couldn’t get the funding to scale it, or develop local talent fast enough.
Despite the skills shortage, the company grew to become the nation’s largest notification service, serving 40,000 organizations, including over 7,000 schools and school districts. We reached 55 million Americans every week with voice and text messages to protect children, inform parents and engage the community. But finding qualified workers continued to be a problem. In fact, we ended up moving two Ohio offices closer to colleges, where it was easier to hire better-educated people. All of this was an indictment of the rural education outcomes in many parts of Ohio.
These three memories—my mother’s heroic efforts, the hatred of people who felt threatened, and the power of education to develop people who can drive business and community successes—drove me to dig deeper into the problem I saw: a widening achievement gap between rich and poor. I’m a terminally-aggressive problem solver and I believed there had to be a better solution.
With my wife Barb, a long-time elementary school reading and music teacher, I spent three years reviewing the literature and interviewing educators, experts, and parents to determine why poor kids and minorities couldn’t seem to get ahead. We visited a dozen cities and studied their programs and attempts to close the gap. Few were successful except for a handful of expensive programs that barely served a few hundred kids, and were similar to the college program my company funded: none could succeed across the board for a majority of children in a district.
We found that the primary culprit behind the achievement gap was the summer slide, that devastating and cumulative reading loss that many disadvantaged children slip into every summer. Their richer, whiter peers retreat to homes filled with books they can read and re-read all summer long. These wealthier children are more likely to discuss what they see, explore, and read with parents, who themselves read. They view books as portals into fantastic worlds of imagination, science, and history. They learn about different people and places, and they return to school in the fall with their skills intact, if not advanced.
The challenge was simple: Could we extend the benefits of Head Start type programs, which have served tens of millions of pre-school kids over the past five decades, into a viable, affordable, outcomes-driven program that could close the achievement gap by eliminating the summer reading slide? And could we do it for children of all colors, races, and incomes? We knew that if we succeeded, the impact could be staggering. If we could increase the number of college-educated adults, then companies could grow and thrive in our town—and in every American community. More workers would be able to support their families in dignity.
We raised a few million dollars to create Kids Read Now. We tried dozens of changes and different approaches—and kept getting better. More and more of our kids raised their reading scores over the summer. There are no magic bullets, just many small, connected steps that have led to a turnkey, in-home summer program that engages parents, excites children, and works.
Excerpted from Reading for Life, published by Kids Read Now. Copyright © 2017 by each contributing author. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Richard L. Allington is a professor of education at the University of Tennessee and has served as the president of the International Reading Association, president of the National Reading Conference, and as a member of the International Reading Association Board of Directors. He is also a director of Kids Read Now. Anne McGill-Franzen is a professor and director of the Reading Center at the University of Tennessee.
The reading achievement of American elementary school students has been slowly but steadily rising for at least the past half-century. Virtually all children have benefited, but those who have benefited the least are children from low-income families—poor children.
The reading achievement gap between kids from families in the 10th and 90th percentiles of income widened from .90 to 1.25 standard deviations, an increase of 40 percent. At the same time, the reading achievement gap between black and white kids shrank from close to 1.25 to less than .75 standard deviations. American schools have been doing a better job of developing the reading proficiencies of minority children, thus narrowing the minority/majority reading-achievement gap while at the same time losing ground as poor children compared to wealthy children do even worse today than they did in 1970.
The rich/poor reading gap and summer reading loss
It’s tempting to explain away the reading gap between rich and poor children as simply a function of inadequate schools, but the problem is more complex than that. Barbara Heyns documented the rich/poor reading achievement gap in the Atlanta public schools nearly forty years ago. She reported that academic growth during the school year was roughly comparable for both groups of children. The big difference was that children from middle-class families generally gained more reading proficiency during the summer than children from low-income families. In fact, children from low-income families actually lost reading proficiency during the summer months. It was during the summer months that poor students lagged behind their financially- advantaged peers.
A 2007 study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University reached a similar conclusion. The researchers there found that the cumulative gains across the elementary school years in reading comprehension, as measured on the Reading Comprehension subtest of the California Achievement Test (CAT-R), was 191 points for children from low-income families and a very similar 187-point gain for children who were financially better off. Indeed, the poor kids actually gained more reading growth in the elementary school years than did their financially-better-off peers. The researchers noted that, “Such parity hardly accords with popular (and some professional) depictions of poor children’s schooling …” In other words, the identification of failing schools as the root cause of poor reading skills among low-income children, based on student reading achievement, is fundamentally wrong. The schools attended by most children from low-income families produce just as much growth in reading achievement each year, as do those award-winning suburban schools. These results mirror the achievement patterns reported by others.
The researchers go on to note that, “Poor children in Baltimore may be progressing in parallel with better-off children during the school year, but that does not mean they are performing at the same level at year’s end. To the contrary, at the end of elementary school they lag far behind, which we attribute to two sources: They start school already behind, a deficit that their good school-year gains do not erase; and during the summer, when they are cut off from the school’s resources, they lose ground relative to higher-SES children.”
So what was it about summer that caused such different outcomes? During those months of vacation, children were not attending school and had to rely on family and community resources in developing reading proficiencies. But as studies have shown, low-income families own few books and live in neighborhoods where few books are available. Worse, children from poor families also attend schools where the supply of books is both smaller and older. Since it is primarily poor children who experience summer reading setback or summer reading loss, it’s reasonable to ask if this summer reading setback results from the limited access that poor children have to books. That is, if you own few books, and if your neighborhood does not have a public library or a bookstore, one might ask: Where will poor kids locate books they might read during the summer months?
A strategy for eliminating summer reading loss
Our study was designed to ease poor children’s summer access to books by providing them with books they voluntarily selected. The children were completing first or second grade in the initial year of this study, and we provided book fairs for three consecutive summers. Three years later, at the end of third or fourth grade, we compared the reading achievement of both groups, using the scores from the state-mandated FCAT assessment, and found that the Books children scored almost a year higher in reading proficiency than the control-group children who had not received any summer books.
Our summer books intervention cost roughly $50 per child per year, well below the cost of providing a summer school program for these children, yet we eliminated summer reading loss! While this did not catch these children up to grade-level reading achievement, it did make the rich/poor gap substantially smaller.
The students in our 2010 study were primarily poor, urban, African-American children. We are currently replicating our earlier study with primarily rural, poor, white children from East Tennessee. The goal of this replication is to see whether we can obtain the same positive effects on reading achievement with a group of children who differ both racially and geographically. The Coalition for Evidence-Based Education Policies gave our earlier study a “near top-tier” rating and indicated that a successful replication with other poor children would move our summer books distribution program to the Top Tier rating, an endorsement that should result in an expansion of summer books programs in high-poverty communities.
Our work is the only longitudinal summer research that has been done with poor children. Others have reported on single-year free summer book studies and also have found positive effects on the reading achievement of poor children. Thus, it is our expectation that our current study will also l find positive effects on reading achievement.
Excerpted from Reading for Life, published by Kids Read Now. Copyright © 2017 by each contributing author. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Finland has long been one of the top countries in the world regarding reading scores. The last time that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, Finland was ranked fourth in the world. The Finnish school system has always enjoyed a place at the top of these measurements of academic prowess.
But to what do the Finns attribute their fantastic literacy abilities? What are they doing that builds such strong readers?
They are watching television.
The Finns do not make most of their programs. A family sitting down to watch a show are more likely to be reading captions as they watch foreign programs. This study was one of the first ones done by researchers on how closed captioning can affect readers.
The results they found were surprising. Reading the captions with videos improves many aspects of understanding language, from better vocabulary to increased reading comprehension. Captioning foreign programs made reading a requirement to enjoy them, not an option.
Researchers found similar results during a study in India. As an experiment to help raise the literacy rate in that country, the government added subtitles to popular Bollywood films. Researchers came up with the phrase “what fires together, wires together.”
They discovered that, as the adults and children watched the films and sang, they picked up necessary literacy words and concepts. The combination of visual and audio cues motivated to learn the words. This method helped to build essential vocabulary and gave some boost to overall reading levels, but it is not a cure-all for illiteracy.
Understanding the power of combining visual and audio is in its infancy, but the applications for it have piqued the curiosity of literacy advocates all over the world. The internet allows people to broadcast video to anywhere there is a connection.
This means even people in rural areas of the world see and experience these videos, as well as specific populations who are forbidden from being educated. Providing these populations with internet access can be a way to give them an opportunity for an education they may not otherwise have.
A major advantage of closed captioning when it comes to reading and language comprehension is how natural it is. Sitting for a student, whether they are six or sixty, can be a difficult task.
Students are at a table with a book of symbols they do not yet grasp, struggling to make sense of them. Presenting that same information in a video, studies find, lowers the barriers to learning. It also lowers the resistance to learn.
Students now get to watch a video, not sift through a book. They can see and hear what is going on while reading the words and associating them with the images. Any words they do not understand they can stop, write them down, and then look them up, or they can rewind the video and rewatch it.
Students see the words used in context, giving them a better sense of how they fit into their vocabulary. Teachers can use videos that focus on specific topics, like colors or farms or the kitchen, to take more in-depth looks into what words relate to those spaces.
Closed captioning is an underutilized tool when it comes to educating young readers. It is entertaining, and they grasp it intuitively.
The resources that teachers have at their disposal are vast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all video media in the country to be closed captioned and synced to the visuals.
Any educational video shown in class can have the captioning turned on to help students who struggle to read. Using captioning will help you build young, eager readers.
For more information on using closed captioning to improve literacy, please visit caption.cool.
No longer required to be in a classroom for hours every day, students spend their summers relaxing and trying to pack all the fun in they can before fall. While they have certainly earned a break after nine months of school, taking a full summer off from learning is dangerous. It can lead to the summer slide and being a month behind their peers when classes resume. As tempting as it is to allow them to take the whole summer off, it is essential for parents to promote summer reading and learning.
Having children sit for an hour or so a day is not going to work. Too many other options beckon, from playing with friends in the neighborhood to playing video games. Integrating reading into summer activities is a fun way for them to learn while they still participate in their favorite pastimes. Parents don’t have to spend hours considering lesson plans or developing special activities. The activities children naturally gravitate to, with little extra planning, can be springboards into secret summer lessons.
Consider the following summer favorites for learning moments:
- Find a favorite recipe and make it – We all have a food we love. It could be anything from a favorite flavor of ice cream to a dinner on a special occasion. During the summer, you can head to the library and find the recipe for the foods your child loves. Making it together helps your child not only with reading, but with math and following instructions. There also is the opportunity to learn about the history of the dish as well in other books!
- Learn about your vacation – Most families are going to travel for vacation. According to the AAA, over one-third of families will travel over 50 miles this summer on a trip. This is an excellent chance for your child to explore the library before you hit the road! Read some books about the place where you will be going or a landmark of some significance. Maybe allow your child to help you plan part of the trip!
- Learn about your home – Not everyone will be traveling. Some people will be busy at home, taking a staycation. There is still plenty to explore in your town! Take a tour of some of the historic buildings associated with famous people who came from the area. You can help your child read the building markers, and then later find some books about those people and their lives.
- Draw a book cover – Part of reading is understanding the story. After your child is finished reading each book, grab some crayons, pencils, and markers and help draw a new cover for the book based on what was read. Talk about the picture as you are both working on it. Being creative makes the story more fun, and helps it come to life in the mind of the child!
- Reading picnic – Get some sandwiches and snacks together, grab some summer reading material, and head out to the nearest park! This is a great event for your family and a group of other families, or just some of your child’s friends. The children can take turns reading from their books, running around the area, and enjoying a day outside. Have other books on hand in case they finish theirs, or they want something different.
- Read the book; see the movie – Summer is the time when the biggest films of the year come out. Many of the books your child loves to read develop into full-length movies or cartoons. Once your child is done reading the book, pop some popcorn and find the movie on a streaming service or rent it from the library and watch it. Discuss what was the same in the film and the book, and what was different. It is an excellent opportunity to show your child how things vary when one changes to the other.
There are many other ideas to promote summer reading, like the 100 place challenge, coupons for the books a child reads, a summer reading bingo sheet, and others all around the web. With a little extra time, you can make what could be considered a homework assignment into a fun way to spend a summer. All it takes is imagination to have your child wanting to reach for a book instead of a game controller or remote!
Sitting down with a good book for pleasure is much different than sitting down to go over tax documents or reading a book that you are analyzing for a paper. Readers relax when they read for pleasure. They make a comfortable space and do all they cannot be interrupted while they devour tales of trips to far off places, unlikely romances, and conflicts for the heart of the world. It can be about historical figures that made a significant impact on society or events that changed the direction of society. Reading for pleasure does not have to be fiction!
Reading for pleasure starts with the adults. Administrators, teachers, and parents all have to show that reading is as much a fun activity as it is a necessary activity. Any teacher, even math and science teachers, can read to young students at the beginning of class. Let the parents know what their child liked, and did not like, and help them build a library at home. Or encourage students to go to the school or community library and find books they love.
What reading for pleasure has to be, though, is self-selected. Teachers and parents who hope, or make, children read books outside of class that are “better for them” blunt some of the pleasure otherwise found in the book. As children’s book author Neil Gaiman once pointed out in a speech about libraries,”Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer.” It is a route to other benefits as well.
Reading for pleasure does not make them better at reading; it makes them better at learning. The British Cohort Study (BCS) found that children that read for fun are not just better at reading and English, they are better at all subjects. On a longer timeline, they have a better vocabulary as adults as well. In fact, whether or not a child reads for pleasure at a young age can have more impact on their educational growth than socioeconomic status.
Another benefit that reading for pleasure has uncovered is better empathy and decision making. The stories that people read often show characters interacting in a variety of situations. Children get so engrossed in the book that their brains would react as if the events were happening in the real world. A fourteen-year-old who participated in one of the studies commented that “sometimes when big stuff happens in my life, I’ll think about what my favorite characters would have done, the ones I admire most. … They all have different approaches, different ways they approach things, and then I try to apply that to my life, to see which way works for me.” The situations they see in books give them social clues to how people react to various experiences.
This understanding of socialization does not just come from what they are reading. Like any other hobbyist, readers often interact with other people that love reading. These interactions help students develop social skills at a young age. Students learn how to share opinions at a younger age as well as building their understanding of other cultures and perspectives.
Extending that love of reading to the home is equally important. Have books ready to be read at any place around the house. Instead of watching television, have a family reading night. Once your children are reading on their own, spend time reading books you like with them for pleasure. It can encourage them to ask about the book and possibly introduce them to a whole different subject or series!
Reading for pleasure has benefits that go beyond the scholastic. By giving students choices about what they want to read, a lifelong reader is created. Practice allowing your child to read what they want and see where it takes them!
Strategies to get students to read more have many similarities to strategies for getting children to eat more vegetables.
Much like vegetables, when it comes to getting children to read, giving them the ability to choose what they want to learn will get them to read more. Choices, like reaching for carrots instead of chips, put children into a situation where they are encouraged to perform the task that is better for them makes them more interested in doing the work.
A 2010 article by Jenna Cambria and John Guthrie offer choice as one of the key motivating factors for getting students to read.
This is not to say that everything they read has to be their choice. Lessons can be broken down to give students options for how they approach the material. What character are we going to read about today? Which lesson are we going to learn? Who wants to be the reader for specific pages?
Offering choices give a certain amount of ownership. The teacher is still controlling the direction of the class, but the students have a small say. That small investment keeps them interested in the subject at hand.
Reading about something they have selected keeps students motivated on the topic. Required reading can be a drag. It is a challenge to keep students moving forward in a book they show no interest. Even if the book is required reading, there are ways to give students a choice. Like becoming an expert on one of the topics or characters. This gives them some power over the assignment, giving them the encouragement to keep reading.
When students have the opportunity to read for pleasure, offering a wide selection of books is critical. Children today have dozens of options for how they can spend their time. Choosing the books they want to read puts that activity to the top of the list. Spending time reading for pleasure, on a topic they enjoy, encourages them to read more. More frequent reading offers a wide variety of benefits, including building a more extensive vocabulary. While having a library in the home is ideal, introducing students to the school library and the public library will help with that diversity of options.
When students read, they want the experience to be more than a required activity they have to perform. The material they are reading should be something they enjoy, not a checkmark in a box. They do not want it to be eating their vegetables because they have to. Vegetables are best when they taste good or make the meal better. Giving the students choice in what they read, either in the narrow terms of a lesson or the full range of shelves in a library, bring students closer to becoming readers that are always looking for their next book!
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!
Like developing anything important, building better students requires providing the right environment. This is an easier task when the children are in school. A school is filled with teachers, staff, and materials that serve the purpose of encouraging students to learn. Outside of the classroom, that encouragement is not always present. Those materials are not always available when they are at home. They do not need desks, whiteboards, or even computers to spend time learning at home. All they need are home libraries.
Having a library at home encourages students to spend time reading, and learning, outside of the classroom. Richard Allington, author of Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap, states that a handful of self-selected books could have a dramatic impact on a child’s learning over time.
In a multi-year study, he discovered that just adding 12 self-selected books to a home every summer can have the same learning impact that summer school offers. When books are convenient, it is more likely those books will be used by the students and parents. It creates a home environment that shows that reading is encouraged, especially when there are books within easy reach at all times. Helping parents build home libraries have other benefits as well:
- Continuous access to books – It can be difficult for parents, especially those in low-income families, to take their children to a local library over the summer. By developing home libraries, students have easy access to books all summer long.
- Topics of their choosing – Everyone is more likely to read books about topics that pique their interest. Teachers and parents can work together to build a home library of books that will encourage children to read not only through the summer but during the school year.
- Familiarity with the material – Children enjoy things that are familiar. They love their favorite toys and clothes. That same love of the familiar can apply to books, especially a favorite character in a series. A beloved character can expose them to new vocabulary over the course of that series, elevating their understanding of the language.
- Builds family literacy – Reading can be contagious. Once one member develops a passion for reading, it can spread to siblings and other people in the home. This has a multiplying effect of bringing more books into the home, creating a virtuous cycle of overall improved literacy for the family.
- Improved academic performance – Research shows that, even when wealth and location are taken into account, more books in the home leads to greater academic performance. Owning 500 books can add 3.2 years of educational gains over time, according to Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Even the addition of one book can have an impact on educational gains.
Creating a friendly environment for students to read changes the environment for the whole family. Even in areas where there may not be a bookstore or community library available, home libraries offer a bridge to literacy. It extends a small part of the learning environment into every home.