This Summer’s Best Book For Kids

August 4, 2010

A  three-year study was recently completed at the University of Tennessee which found “a significantly higher level of reading achievement in students who received books for summer reading at home.”  University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty members Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, both professors of education, concluded that “the summer reading setback is the primary reason for the reading achievement gap between children who have access to reading materials at home and those who do not. Students who do not have books at home miss out on opportunities to read. Those missed opportunities can really add up.”

“What we know is that children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development while kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency,” Allington said. “This creates a three to four month gap every year. Every two or three years the kids who don’t read in the summer fall a year behind the kids who do.”

The professors went to 17 low-income schools in Florida and gave a group of 1st and 2nd graders the opportunity to select books at a spring fair to take home for free. They also gave another group of kids an activity book (non-reading) to take home. They repeated this three more times and after the third year they measured the reading levels of the two groups. Not surprisingly, the kids who took home books they selected, even if they were biographies of Brittany Spears or the Rock, scored significantly better on reading tests than the kids who had the activity books or no books at all.

The two main conclusions from this study–not news to many of you–are that reading during the summer is critical for academic success in the school year and letting your child select the books he or she wants to read is very important-particularly for reluctant readers. “Research has demonstrated that choice makes a very important contribution to achievement,” said McGill-Franzen.  The study will be published in the fall issue of Reading Psychology.

So what’s the best book for your kids this summer? It’s the one they want to read, which may not necessarily line up with the school summer reading list or your choice for them. The idea is to open the door to a love of reading; once inside, they’ll read more and better books with time. So bring them in to the Library and let them browse the shelves or ask any of the staff to help them find a book they’ll enjoy.

Click here to see Tennessee Today “Fun, Sun, and Good Books: UT Experts Say Summer Reading Keeps Skills Strong”

Click here to see The New York Times article “Summer Must-Read for Kids? Any Book”