Summer Reading Matters!

BY Lynn Van Auken

Oak Bluffs School

Project Description

Research has shown that the lack of access to summer reading material is linked to the reading achievement gap evident in low-income students. Children from low-income families reliably lose reading skills every summer while middle-class children actually improve between June and September as a result of access to books. The goal of this project is to provide access to summer reading books for low-income children at the Oak Bluffs School. Our long-term goal is to empower these children to maintain reading achievement levels gained over the course of the school year throughout the summer months. For the past two years, with the help of other small grants, “Scholastic Dollars” earned from our book fairs, and parent donations, were were able to offer one-third of the Oak Bluffs School population a collection of books and magazines for summer reading. Without your support, we would not be able to meet the needs of our students. We have already begun collecting books for our Summer 2016 give-away. We are hoping to be able to double the number of books we are able to provide this year. In June, students will be invited to select books, with the help of reading teachers and librarians, based on reading levels and interests. Research has shown that self-selecting books greatly increases the chances that children actually read the books during the summer months and positively impact summer reading goals. Economic and achievement data collected by the school will once again inform our student selection.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

Research conducted by Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle at Johns Hopkins University documents this. By following a cohort of children who were tested twice each year from first through ninth grade they offer three major conclusions: 1. Reading growth did not differ between the two groups (rich and poor children) during the school year. 2. By ninth grade, the reading achievement gap was about three years wide (ninth vs. sixth). 3. Most of the reading achievement gap at ninth grade was due to differential effects of summer vacation on children from families with different levels of wealth. The project will be evaluated with the GRADE reading assessment and either the Benchmark Reading Assessment or the Developmental Reading Assessment. In addition, we will evaluate participants’ summer reading homework assignments in order to discern the importance of the gift books.

Benefit to the students and the school

The good news from the research is that simply improving access to self-selected books improves students’ reading proficiency. The development of anything requires practice, lots of practice. Children without access to books are like hockey players without access to ice. Without access to ice it is impossible to develop good hockey players, just as lack of access to books prohibits the development of reading proficiency. Our Summer Reading Matters! program supports our students, our teachers, and our community by addressing the problem of summer reading set-back in an effective and cost efficient way. Many of these children do not have books of their own at home. Each year they express joy, gratitude and pride as they select their books and carry them home in their summer reading book bags the last days of school.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)

Students will be selected in the spring based on family income and school reading assessments. They will be invited to the Summer Reading Book Bonanza during the last two weeks of the school year. The following fall, students will hand in completed summer reading homework assignments, complete the GRADE reading assessment, and do the Benchmark Reading Assessment or DRA. All of the data will be reviewed to determine the effectiveness of the program.

summer reading