MAKING THE GRADE: Students reap many benefits from summer reading

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:45 am on Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Making the Grade | Janet Ralph

Last week in this column we discussed the impact of the summer break on students. One issue we touched on briefly was the importance of summer reading.  Since then, I have reviewed some research about this topic that I would like to share.

I will be happy to provide my sources to anyone who is interested, but here are a few of the compelling things that I learned about the importance of summer reading.

Multiple studies indicate that kids who don’t read over the summer will experience “summer reading loss” and lag behind their classmates.

Summer reading loss is cumulative. Kids can’t make up the lost time. By the end of sixth grade, youth who lose reading skills during the summer are two years behind their peers.

One study indicates that children who read at least six books during the summer maintained or improved their reading skills, while kids who didn’t read any saw their skills slip by as much as an entire grade.

Another study found that by the end of fifth grade, disadvantaged youth are nearly three grade equivalents behind their more affluent peers in reading.

Falling behind during the summer may impact high school curriculum placement, the decision to drop out of high school or whether the student attends college.

Obviously, summer reading is very important to students but research also shows the importance of exposure to libraries to improving students’ skills and incentive to read.

More access to books results in more reading.

Youth read more when they can select material that is interesting to them.

To encourage voluntary reading, youth need access to a wide variety of books of varying difficulty levels, genres, topics and lengths.

My hat is off to the staff at Greenville Schools and the Flat River Community Library (and those in other communities) who have worked together to respond to this research with opportunities for our area young people. They have created programs to provide nutrition, activities and exposure to reading for students. These address some of the concerns we discussed last week, but also make young people more aware of the possibilities of using libraries not only in the summer, but all year, and make them more comfortable taking advantage of them.

Summer reading programs encourage students to enjoy reading, improve their reading skills, help them to learn the skills of selecting and checking out materials and encourage parent participation.

I was raised in a home surrounded by books. My parents taught me early that if you enjoy reading, you will never be without something to do. I have found that to be true. It is truly about more than getting an education. It is a gift for a lifetime and I am grateful for the individuals who are teaching this appreciation of reading to youth today.

Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.

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