See below for the full chat transcript
By Anna Gratz Cockerille
The blooming flowers, longer days, and sunnier skies tell us that summer, with its promise of more time for rest and play is nearly here. The summer months are a chance for students and teachers alike to change their pace, to dig in to projects of personal interest, and to just…breathe. But for many kids, summer is also a time when learning grinds to a halt. Students in lower socio-economic households in particular have little opportunity to practice the academic skills that begin to take root by the end of the year. One particular area of well-documented summer decline is in reading. When students don’t read during the summer, the effects on their academic progress are disastrous.
Reading researchers Maryann Mraz and Timothy Rasinski spotlighted the summer reading loss issue in a 2007 article of The Reading Teacher (“Summer Reading Loss,” (60(8). International Reading Association. 784–789). In this article, they quantified the effects of summer reading loss clearly and startlingly: “A review of 13 empirical studies representing approximately 40,000 students found that, on average, the reading proficiency levels of students from lower income families declined over the summer months, while the reading proficiency levels of students from middle-income families improved modestly. In a single academic year, this decline resulted in an estimated three-month achievement gap between more advantaged and less advantaged students.”
Further, Mraz and Rasinski reminded us of one of the core tenets of reading instruction: in order to get better at reading, students must spend large quantities of time actually reading. They wrote, “Access to reading materials has been consistently identified as a vital element in enhancing the reading development of children. Of all the activities in which children engage outside of school, time spent actually reading is the best predictor of reading achievement—the more students read, the better readers they become (Allington, 2006; Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988).”
First and foremost is making sure that students have access to books.
Happily, there is much that can be done to set students up for summer reading success before the school year ends. First and foremost, of course, is making sure that students have access to books. Some teachers lend books from their classroom libraries over the summer. Others organize trips to the local library to set students up with library cards and to show them how to check out books. Many local libraries offer summer reading programs with themes and incentives to keep kids reading. Free online programs such as Book Adventure by Sylvan give kids with computers or devices access to a great deal of reading material at no cost.
In addition to making sure that students have access to books, spending some time helping them to plan and organize some reading projects for themselves will go a tremendous way toward keeping their engagement high. First, help students to make plans for the kinds of reading projects they will do. Students might choose reading projects based on a genre, or an author. They might plan to read a set of nonfiction books in order to learn about a topic. They might create a project to get better at a reading skill, such as stamina. They might read books about a particular social issue. In all of these cases, arming them with a book list to tackle the project is crucial.
Here is a list of questions to help guide students to make plans for their summer reading:
- What’s your reading goal?
- What materials will you need?
- How will you share this work with others?
- How much time will you make each day to read?
- How will you know when you’re finished with this project?
- What other projects do you want to do?
To really solidify and validate students’ learning, set up an opportunity for them to present their summer reading work at the start of the next school year. The more light-hearted and celebratory the atmosphere while students present, the more likely they are to want to engage in reading projects again.
Shana Frazin is a senior staff developer for the Reading and Writing Project who has helped countless students to get set up for summer reading success. Join her and the TCRWP community tomorrow to share ideas and grow your thinking about how to support students in their summer reading.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @sfrazinTCRWP tomorrow evening to chat about getting ready for summer reading.
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Anna Cockerille is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer based in New York City. She has taught in K–8 classrooms all over the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Auckland, New Zealand. Anna has been a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP) and an adjunct instructor for the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. She writes at Two Writing Teachers.
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