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Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy. Reading Can Be, Too!

July 24, 2010

summer reading

One of the most restorative acts I engage in over the summer is reading. Pleasure reading. The pace of school make it difficult for me to make the time to really enjoy a good read on a regular basis during the school year, so summer reading is a luxurious treat. I bet I am not alone in my thinking and reading.

Sure, I read every day, but it’s mostly education or child development, nonfiction, and occasionally a novel.  Vacations provided the time to detach from reality in more than one way, reading is one of my favorite ways!

Last week alone, I’ve plowed through half as many novels than I’ve read to date in 2010 – Rigged (Ben Mezerich), Life is Short But Wide (J. California Cooper), The Late, Lamented Molly Marx (Sally Koslow) and The Help (Kathryn Stockett).
The contrast of this passion with the reluctance many children have towards summer reading has weighed heavily on my mind recently. 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 one, either.

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. Not that I was going to actually find books on this isolated paradise we were on, but 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 as we unpacked back home.

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.

So what does this mean? It is clearly and definitively in our kids’ best interest – both for starting September on solid footing and to give them the tools and habits for life-long learning, to read over the summer. Today. Every day. All summer.
But it doesn’t have to be like brushing teeth or taking vitamins. The good news is there are gazillions of books and other materials to read that it’s really easy to keep it fun! Children, particularly boys and those for whom reading doesn’t come easily, will be more engaged in reading when it’s meaningful, relevant and provides some sense of adventure or fantasy.

Ways to Slip or Slap Reading into Summer:

  • Make it a priority. a priority to have fun with reading. remember, reading doesn’t always mean holding a book.  magazines, e-books, audio books, direction, games like Bananagrams, Scrabble, Boggle.
  • Build it into your day. Before or after a meal. during afternoon (nap or quiet time). On the way to the pool, day care, sports. Schedule a weekly library trip. Whatever works in your home, for your kids, for yourself.
  • Add some drama – act out stories, dress up, make a stage, read into a microphone, video tape read aloud (share with far-away relatives), write stories and act them out.
  • Make a list of topics, genres, authors your kid like; work together to find those titles at the library or book store (bonus: search on-line and that’s reading, too!)
  • Ask friends what they are reading and share.
  • Keep books handy – beach bags, sports bags, bathroom, porch, tree house, car, backpacks, kitchen table.
  • Pass on the traveling DVD player and opt for books on cd (or down load the mp3 files).
  • Make a paper chain for each book read. Or log in a journal, on a popsicle stick or other ways to see the cumulative effect.
  • Trade off 30 minutes of video games/screens for 30 minutes of tv. (This raises the bar in my house some days… but worth the effort!)
  • Hang hammock, set up a chair under a tree and designate that as the reading spot.
  • Take a flashlight and read under the stars or listen to a story outdoors.

These are just a handful. Bet you have more good ideas, so why not post a comment here or on Facebook to share ways your family is reading this summer?

Coming next week, the monthly newsletter and resource list for more summer reading! Until then, happy reading!

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 24, 2010 1:31 pm

    My kids are home schooled and year-round I am constantly struggling through heaps of books piled high on every available surface! They use the library catalog on their own to reserve whatever they please because they have an excellent grasp of what is appropriate for them. My son, the scientist, leans toward non-fiction and my daughter, an avid writer, has consumed every classic. I did read to them for hours every week when they were little and I guess it stuck!

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