By Sara Busse
Ahhh… summer. Time for kids to kick back, take a break, put away the books. Well, no.
Google “the importance of summer reading” and you’ll see that while it’s good to relax and enjoy the less-structured school vacation days, it’s never a good idea to stop reading.
Jim Trelease, reading guru and godfather to Read Aloud West Virginia, touts the importance of summer reading by citing a study of 1,600 sixth-graders in 18 schools showing that reading four to six books (chapter books) during the summer was enough to alleviate summer loss.
In his pamphlet, “Summer Reading,” Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, discusses reading programs at local libraries as an important tool for parents during the summer. He also explains that, at first, ten to fifteen minutes of sustained silent reading (SSR) is appropriate for children who are not used to reading for more than brief periods of time. Later, when they are used to reading in this manner, the time can be increased.
Scholastic, provider of books and educational materials in tens of thousands of schools and tens of millions of homes worldwide, explains that learning or reading skill losses during the summer months are cumulative, creating a wider gap each year between more proficient and less proficient students. By the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer reading loss has accumulated to a two-year lag in reading achievement, according to an April 2007 study by Richard Allington.
Teachers typically spend between four to six weeks re-teaching material students have forgotten over the summer, according to the article “Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap,” by Karl Alexander, Doris Entwistle and Linda Steffel Olson. And in The Power of Reading, Stephen Krashen points out that “reading as a leisure activity is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary and reading speed.”
Finally, in the ”Kids and Family Reading Report” conducted by Harrison Group and Scholastic:
- Having reading role-model parents or a large book collection at home has a greater impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income.
- An overwhelming 92 percent of kids say they are more likely to finish a book they picked out themselves.
- Ninety-nine percent of parents think children their child’s age should read over the summer.
- Parents think their children should read an average of 11 books over the summer, ranging from 17 books for children ages 6-8, to six books for 15- to 17-year olds.
So let the kids sleep in, swim, run in the yard and enjoy a little downtime. But make reading a part of the fun and the rewards will be seen in the fall — and throughout their lives.
Sara Busse is a long-time Charleston resident and community volunteer.