Published in the News-Gazette (Champaign, IL), June 5, 2012
The summer reading programs in Champaign for high school students have a worthy and sensible goal: Increase interest in recreational reading. This goal, however, can be achieved far more efficiently.
The new program described by the News-Gazette (“Champaign high schools now require summer reading,” May 28) requires high school students to select among a small set of books on a given theme and read one over the summer. (Students can read a book not on the list, but it must be related to the assigned theme.) Research consistently shows that self-selected reading of books of genuine interest is much more effective in stimulating literacy development than assigned reading.
The program requires written responses to questions about the book when students return in the summer. Research consistently shows that writing summaries and book reports does not increase literacy development and can turn students off to reading.
Another summer program in the Champaign area, the Teen Summer Reading program, awards prizes for reading. Research consistently shows that rewarding people for activities that are inherently pleasurable can result in less interest in doing the activity. Rewards send the message that the activity is not pleasurable and nobody would do it without a bribe.
There is an easier and more effective way. Research also consistently shows that when interesting books are available, teenagers do indeed read them, as demonstrated by the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games. This means that we need to make a greater investment in public libraries, often the only source of books during the summer for those living in poverty, with the goal of providing students with a wide choice of books to read, with no written reports required.
With the increase in poverty in East Central Illinois over the last decade (“Changes in poverty and how schools are affected,” News-Gazette, January 15, 2012), well supported libraries are of more importance than ever.
University of Southern California
Original article: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-05-28/champaign-high-schools-now-require-summer-reading.html
Self-selected reading is more effective: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishing Company and Libraries Unlimited; Lee, S.Y. 2007. Revelations from three consecutive studies on extensive reading. RELC Journal 38 no. 2, 150–70. For a report of a successful summer reading program based on self-selected, see: Shin, F. and Krashen, S. 2007. Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Writing summaries and book reports; Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishing Company and Libraries Unlimited; Mason, B. 2004. The effect of adding supplementary writing to an extensive reading program. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 1 (1): 2-16; Smith, K. 2006. A comparison of “pure” extensive reading with intensive reading and extensive reading with supplementary activities. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 2 (2): 12-15.
Prizes for reading: Kohn, A. 1997. Punished by Rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. McQuillan, J. 1997. The effects of incentives on reading, Reading Research and Instruction 36: 111-25.Krashen, S. 2003. The (lack of) experimental evidence supporting the use of accelerated reader. Journal of Children’s Literature 29 (2): 9, 16-30.
Tennagers do read them: Krashen, S. 2001. Do teenagers like to read? Yes! Reading Today 18(5): 16. Krashen, S. 2011. Why we should stop scolding teenagers and their schools: Frequency of leisure reading. Language Magazine 11(4): 18-21.
Library the only source of books: Neuman, S. and Celano, D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities. Reading Research Quarterly 36 (1): 8-26. Krashen, S. Power of Reading.