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A precious gift for your children this summer: Encourage them to "read, read, read"

Want to improve your SAT or ACT scores? Read, Read, Read

… avoid the “summer slide”

I have a number of students who are in AP or honors classes, and my advice as they took time off for the summer was simple: Read, read, read!

These are high-achieving students who are asking for tutoring most often because they have problems writing essays or papers in high school. I remember what I was told at a writer’s conference in Ligonier: If you want to write successfully, read, read, read.

Research indicates that this is the case, and that the best gift to your child, whether in first grade or twelfth grade, is to encourage him or her to read during the summer.

Here is what the experts say.

The “Summer Slide”

By being out of classes for almost three months, American students suffer a learning loss,

Summer learning loss or setback, often referred to as the “summer slide,” is a devastating loss of academic achievement students experience during the summer months. It is estimated that, on average, students lose two months of grade-level mathematical computation skills over the summer, and low-income students can lose up to two months of reading achievement (McLaughlin & Smink, 2009).

Research suggests that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between high-low socioeconomic statuses in 9th-graders can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school, and one-third of the gap is present before students begin school (Alexander, Entwistle & Olsen, 2007).

The body of summer learning research demonstrates the critical importance of developing summer reading habits that can combat summer learning loss and provide a foundation for academic success.

“The Importance of Summer Reading,” New York Library System, current.

Losing two months of achievement: That is frightening.

When schools close for the summer

Many local libraries have programs for young people, but not enough make use of them. That is why the encouragement of mentors such as parents, grandparents, and teachers is so important.

One of the most effective means of improving reading achievement levels is supplying students with engaging and comprehensive reading materials. Increased time reading can improve reading, writing, and spelling ability, cultivate larger vocabularies, and develop understanding of complex grammatical structures. One way to motivate students to read is by providing access to self-selected reading materials and time for voluntary reading (Krashen, 2009).

When schools close for the summer, students’ reading opportunities diminish, especially for economically disadvantaged students without access to books. Increasing access to self-selected books for summer reading is an effective strategy for lowering summer reading setback in economically disadvantaged students and the achievement gap in students between high-low socioeconomic statuses (Allington et al., 2010).

One study analyzed the experience of an urban high school, which motivated students to read over the summer by providing free, high-interest books to its students, providing further evidence that improving access to books and reading opportunities is a vital step to developing reading proficiency among lower-income students over the summer (McGaha & Igo, 2012).

“The Importance of Summer Reading,” New York Library System, current.

Reading diminishes in adolescence

A study from a decade ago notes that reading scores fall dramatically once children turn into adolescence,

Over the last two decades, research continues to show that reading scores tumble while voluntary reading rates diminish as children move from childhood to late adolescence. One real discouraging note is that nine year-old children read more than their thirteen- and seventeen-year-old counterparts.

One of the common assumptions about SRPs is that they are valuable in many ways for the children participating. Reading practice improves word recognition, builds vocabulary, improves fluency and comprehension, is a powerful source of world knowledge, and is a way to develop understandings of complex written language syntax and grammar. However, most children do very little reading out of school, and only a small number of children read for extended periods of time.

Joe Matthews, “Evaluating summer reading programs: Suggested

improvements,” Public Libraries Online, July/August 2010

In short, while a trip to the shore may be what parents are planning for their children short term, something that they will love, the greatest long-term gift could be buying some books for them — or encouraging them to go to the local public library.

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