The Importance of Summer Reading
By Kristine Burgess
Over the school year students receive instruction that should focus on developing skills and making academic gains, but what happens when they leave school for the summer? In order to prevent regression of reading skills in the summer months, it is essential that students engage in summer reading. Oftentimes, school systems have a summer reading requirement, but summer reading should go beyond assigned reading. Students should also be encouraged to read materials of interest to increase their motivation toward reading.
The purpose of summer reading is not only to prevent regression of skills but also to reinforce retention and growth of reading skills. Research continues to support the fact that the best way to improve reading is to practice reading. Therefore, students should be encouraged to read both silently and orally over the summer months to continue developing their reading skills.
According to the Texas Literacy Initiative, a student who reads 21 minutes per day outside of school reads almost two million words per year. A student who reads less than a minute per day outside of school reads only 8,000-21,000 words a year (2002). In addition to basic word exposure, increased reading leads to the expansion of background knowledge and vocabulary. Generally, students with a language-based learning disability (LBLD) have less experience interacting with text, and, as a result, their vocabulary, word knowledge, and background information suffer compared to non-LD students. Therefore, students should be encouraged to take every opportunity to increase their exposure to and with vocabulary, a range of reading topics, and texts of varying difficulties to increase word exposure.
Interacting with Text Boosts Comprehension
Ideally, students should be asked to interact with their reading text in a way that provides for feedback and increased comprehension. In order to interact effectively with the text, a more successful reader could read with the student and provide feedback on decoding errors, overall fluency, and comprehension strategies. Additionally, students could be asked questions about events and characters from the text, which would showcase their level of understanding.
At the end of the day, parents should not have to engage in a large battle with students over summer reading. For the very reluctant reader, parents and school systems should encourage graphic novels, game directions, project manuals, and the like as potentially worthwhile summer reading in addition to assigned novels. While many students will be resistant, what they are reading is far less important than the fact that they are reading.
Kristine Burgess is the head of the Reading Department and a teacher at Landmark School.