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During long summer days, it's not unusual for my family and me to hang out at the pool until it closes or go out for a movie and ice cream -- evening activities that have definitely eaten into my kids’ nightly reading time. I wasn’t that worried until I read in the The New York Times that this could set my kids up for the "summer slide," and they’re not talking water slides. Several studies have found that reading and spelling skills decline during the summer for many school-aged kids -- and not just a little.
Low-income children show the greatest slip in reading skills -- equal to about two months of school each summer -- according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. But summer reading can effectively combat this problem, as the University of Tennessee demonstrated. In its study, a group of low-income children were allowed to choose 12 free books every summer for three years, while another group was given puzzles and activity books for three summers. When tested in fourth or fifth grade, the children who received the books had significantly higher test scores in reading than those who didn’t.
“What we know is that children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development, while kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency,” says Richard Allington, an author of the study. “This creates a three to four month gap every year. Every two or three years, the kids who don’t read in the summer fall a year behind the kids who do.” Those are some dramatic results!
Even more interesting is that the most popular book kids chose was a biography of Britney Spears -- other crowd-pleasers were books about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Hannah Montana -- but the kids still benefited. In fact, having the opportunity to choose their own books gave them more motivation to read.
So if you love late summer nights like my family does, you might want to work reading into your kids' daytime routine for the next few weeks. And don't be afraid to let them pick out something that doesn't seem educational or up to their level, even if it's pop-culture-related. Never thought I’d say it but, “Go Britney Spears!”
How do you encourage your kids to read in the summer? Chime in below?