Research studies show that over the summer break students of poverty lose ground in reading. These losses are compounded so that by the time students finish fifth grade they are more than two years behind their more affluent peers (Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S., 1996). In contrast, middle and high socio-economic students enter school with a significantly larger vocabulary and experience with reading and discussing children’s literature than low-socioeconomic students. The gap is widened by the kinds of summer learning experiences—camps, travel and reading from library and home collections—typical of more affluent students.
CTL works with teachers to develop intentional independent reading strategies as part of daily classroom instruction, match students with their Lexile level and have them select books for reading during the summer that would provide enough challenge to help them keep improving but not so difficult that they couldn’t read independently. Each student has a unique list of books, with the promise of receiving a book by mail every week or two over summer break. In addition, students are given access to multiple interaction opportunities, including;
- School web site where they can participate in a virtual book club with other students as well as make arrangements to swap books.
- Parents are sent a list of discussion questions with each book so they could encourage active reading and reflection for their students.
- Book club events/rewards for reading books and returning postcard prompts. Events can be co-sponsored at the local free public libraries over the summer to encourage visiting the local library.
This summer reading program generates a good deal of enthusiasm among students and parents alike, and is the topic of conversation at the grocery store and other places in the community. Even more encouraging are the results comparing MAP scores (keyed to the Lexile Framework) from the previous spring to fall after students participated in summer reading, and comparing summer reading loss from pre/post, as illustrated by the following tables.
Spring to Fall Average RIT Scores: Same Students Two Consecutive Summers
Number of students who had no loss or gained during summer pre and post summer reading program, +42%
Summer Reading Loss Average in RIT Points
It is important to note that in this sample 92% of students receive free and reduced lunch. These data are based on 109 middle school students who had all four sets of MAP data during 2013. Summer reading loss during the project beginning in 2013 and ending in 2017 was reduced by 46%, a statistically significant finding. Moreover, more than half of the students maintained or made reading gains over the summer. The data are particularly important for providing a program that can help to reduce the summer reading loss trend in poor, rural schools.