Ah, summer is upon us. Who’s excited?! For many of us (okay, it’s probably the majority) who exist inside the world of education, summer is an extraordinarily wonderful- and necessary- time of the year. It is a time to decompress, recharge, and gear up for the next school year. Sunny vacations, fascinating camp experiences, trips to see the relatives– there is so much to love about summer.
Oh, and then there’s that reading we are supposed to be doing, too. Yeah, that.
Research has show time and time again that students that read during the summer do themselves an enormous favor. Many students do themselves the favor of participating in summer reading programs, such as the Connecticut Governor’s Reading Challenge or programs sponsored by local public libraries. But I sometimes wonder, do we truly understand what is at stake when it comes to summer reading? Since this blog is dedicated to supporting middle school readers and writers, allow me to share some somewhat shocking information:
1. Summer slide is real. When students do not read over the summer, they experience what some term, “Summer Slide.” This is real and has been documented several times in several places– like here and here and here (if you prefer more academic writing, check this or this out). The gist of the problem is simple: kids who do not read adequately, that is to say at least 4-6 books over the summer break, lose ground academically. This contributes to a growing achievement gap. For students living in economically disadvantaged circumstances, the effect is significant. According to researchers Allington and McGill-Franzen (2013), the summer break (and lack of reading and/or access to books) widens the achievement gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged by around three months. Three months?!
2. Literacy saves lives. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Dr. Noah Borrero, an associate professor of Urban Education and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. At that workshop, Dr. Borrero shared some shocking statistics. Here are just a few:
- 43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills (the lowest) live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5 (the highest).
- 3 out of 4 food stamp recipients’ literacy skills are Level 2 or below; 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts.
- Teenage girls living at the poverty level with “below average” literacy skills are six times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than female teenage counterparts (also at the poverty level) who read “at or above basic proficiency”.
So besides the public library, where might we find some high-quality resources that might help connect kids with great books? Allow me to suggest just a few (note: suggested lists are my own ideas):
- Nutmeg Award Winners Sponsored by the Connecticut Library Association, the Nutmeg Award encourages children to read high quality literature. The list is here.
- Nerdy Book Club Our friends at the aforementioned Nerdy Book Club have a robust list for all levels of readers. Check it out here!
- Lee & Low Personally, I am a great believer in the ability of books to be both mirrors and windows into the human condition. Books can be windows into the condition of those different than ourselves, and they can be mirrors that show us who we are as humans. Lee & Low is a high quality site dedicated to sharing the rich diversity of our world through literature. Check out their recommendations here.
- Reading is Fundamental Here are some great resources for younger children.