Summer school or an increased investment in public libraries?
Sent to the Washington Post, June 28, 2010.
Jay Mathews notes that that academic achievement declines for low-income students over the summer and concludes that "Summer school is a great tool, if only more students would use it" (June 28). The decline in reading achievement over the summer, however, is actually an argument for increased funding for public libraries, not summer school.
Some of the research reports on the summer slump, including Barbara Heyns' original study of summer learning published in 1975 and Jimmy Kim's more recent research, strongly suggest that scores go down during the summer because low-income children have less access to public libraries and other sources of books and don't do as much pleasure reading.
The implication: More funding for public libraries in low-income areas, and a more cautious approach to increasing time dedicated to traditional instruction. Too much traditional instruction could limit time for wide, self-selected voluntary reading, the single most important factor in improving reading achievement.
Heyns, Barbara. 1975. Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press.
Kim, Jimmy. 2003. “Summer reading and the ethnic achievement gap,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9, no. 2:169-188.
Jay Mathews: Summer school is a great tool, if only more students would use it