More Evidence on the Importance of Summer Reading

We’ve long been proponents of summer reading initiatives, and have written extensively on the substantial benefits these programs can provide.  Last week the School Library Journal released the results of a study from Dominican University on the value of such programs.  They targeted students between the end of third and the beginning of fourth grades and determined students’ beginning Lexile reading levels by using the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI).  Their findings reiterated the importance of summer reading.  As SLJ reports:

Students who take part in their local library’s summer reading program significantly improve their reading skills.  In fact, we found that kids who participate in these programs are 52 Lexile points ahead of their peers who do not.  Summer reading programs are also an antidote for learning loss.  So instead of losing knowledge and skills during the summer months, kids who attend reading programs actually show gains.

In addition, researchers found that the students who participated in summer reading programs “entered the following school year with a positive attitude about reading, were more confident in the classroom, read beyond what was required, and perceived reading as important.” 

This is great news.  Educators have been advocating efforts to combat ‘summer slide’ for years – efforts that have finally begun to catch the public eye.  Clearly, this study provides evidence which further supports the call to encourage summer reading.

While several studies have been conducted on the efficacy of summer reading in the past, this study is unique in its perspective, as it focuses on the role of public libraries as vehicles to attack summer learning loss.  Our own Malbert Smith has written on the importance of the role public libraries serve in this battle, as well as the obstacles they face.

With many schools and their libraries closed for the summer, public libraries provide free and accessible resources fro reading and learning…While helpful overall, many poor children are still at a disadvantage.  In many instances, public libraries located in poor neighborhoods are the first to close or restrict hours in a budget crunch…

The Dominican University study echoed many of these points, referencing the disparity they found in both reading and library use between groups of affluent children and those in low socioeconomic groups.  They noted that their research supported earlier findings which indicated that summer learning loss is more pronounced among low socioeconomic populations.   SLJ urges that we envision public libraries as a means to level the playing field by providing equal access to summer reading programs for all readers.

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