Begone, Summer Reading Achievement Gap! – by Dr. Sara Sawtelle

“Summer reading lowers the summer reading achievement gap.”  It sounds like something Yogi Berra would famously have said.  But it contains a ticklish problem: how to get kids to read in the summer.

All over the country, schools experience lower reading scores in the fall than they got from the same students at the end of the preceding school year.  Having worked with and in schools for most of my career, I am not surprised by this.  If you don’t use a skill, your ability will actually decrease a little, especially in the early stages of learning that skill. 

 What does surprise me is the difficulty educators have had in figuring out how to change the outcome. What doesn’t work?  Summer school , summer reading lists, books suggestions, and summer book reports.  Local libraries try to attract kids and other programs may throw in a little reading.  What haven’t we tried?

Here’s what’s new.  Science Codex (July 21) reports a study to be published  this fall from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Over the three years of the study, young readers were offered a choice of summer reading materials and then they were given the reading materials. The results?  The students who had access to the reading material of their choice began to close the summer reading achievement gap compared to students who didn’t choose their own materials. 

It makes total sense.  Access matters.  Interest in the material matters.    No other task, no tests, no essay, nothing mandatory.  

Let kids pick their material and then let them take it with them.  Reading will happen.  If we give students access to books they’re interested in that’s as easy as the access they have to the television, we don’t have to rely on parents taking them somewhere or a mandatory assignment.  Imagine a summer filled with …. sports, mystery, animals, science fiction, pop culture … topics kids want to read about that aren’t part of the standard curriculum.

What are your kids reading this summer?

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One Response to Begone, Summer Reading Achievement Gap! – by Dr. Sara Sawtelle

  1. Karen Buccola says:

    This is so true. For me, it was reading every book on horses I could find. For my son, Star Wars is what turned him into a reader. They have Star Wars chapter books for every reading level which was perfect since he was a struggling reader when he was younger. Now as an adult, he belongs to a Star Wars book club. For my daughter, Harry Potter came along at just the right time. She’s in college now and just told me the other day that she is rereading the last book in the series so she’s all ready for when the next movie comes out. She is a BrainWare Safari graduate and reading used to be so hard for her. Now she loves reading so much that she bought herself a Kindle.

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