"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Preventing the “summer slump” in reading: silent reading time AND support for libraries

Posted at http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/07/31/using-summer-to-narrow-achievement-gap/

As the NY Times notes, children from lower-income families tend to fall behind in reading over the summer, and a major reason is that they don’t read very much (“Using summer to narrow achievement gaps,” NY Times, July 31, School Book). The Summer Quest program, described in the Times, is one of the few summer programs I have read about that deals with this situation directly, including 30 minutes a day of silent reading.

Silent reading of self-selected books has been repeatedly shown to be very effective in increasing literacy, as long as there is access to a wide range of reading material, and students are not tested on what they read.

Those who live in poverty read little primarily because they have little access to books: Studies show that children of poverty have few books at home, live in neighborhoods with few book stores and poorly supported public libraries, and attend schools that have poorly supported classroom and school libraries. Studies also confirm that those with more access to reading material do indeed read more.

Providing more support for libraries will help ensure that Summer Quest participants will continue to improve long after the program ends.

Sources and notes
The origin of interest in the summer slump is Barbara Heyns’ book, Summer Learning and the Effects of School, published in 1975. She not only documented the difference between children from high and low-income families, but also reported that the number of books children said they read over the summer was a significant predictor of their gains and losses over the summer in literacy. Her results were replicated 30 years later by Jimmy Kim (Kim, J. 2003. “Summer reading and the ethnic achievement gap,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9, no. 2:169-188). Both studies controlled for other factors that could affect changes in reading ability over the summer. These results are consistent with the massive evidence relating free voluntary reading to literacy development.

Effectiveness of silent reading: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited and Heinemann Publishing Company.

Characteristics of effective silent reading programs: Krashen, S. 2012. Non-Engagement in Sustained Silent Reading: How extensive is it? What can it teach us? In Cho, KS, Krashen, S., Lee, SY, Mason, B. and Smith, K. SSR in Asia: Empirical studies of sustained silent reading in English as a foreign language
http://languagemagazine.com/?page_id=4273 (Ebook)

Poverty and access to books: Krashen, op. cit.

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