Summer Reading:Providing Books Is Not Enough

Schools in both the United States and the Philippines are not in session all year round. Summer breaks often bring a pause to children's academic efforts. The National Summer Learning Association writes in one of its research briefs"Summer’s always been a great time to kick back with a book. But a strong body of research shows that, without practice, students lose reading skills over the summer months and children from low-income families lose the most. With the prevalence of television, computers and other electronic distractions, how can parents, educators and librarians encourage kids to immerse their minds and imaginations in books over the summer months?"

It is not sufficient however just to provide books that children could read over the summer. According to James Kim, a professor of education at Harvard University:
"...In fact, in one study, when we gave books to kids but did nothing else, they did no better than the kids who did nothing over the summer. There was no difference...
...Our research indicates that it’s about more than access, especially with younger kids who are still learning to read. Reading is most effective when parents or family members can provide reading guidance and make sure that kids understand what they’re reading. Reading can be both a solitary activity and a social activity that fosters learning and recreation."
At Mason Crest Elementary School in Virginia, there is a summer reading program. My children and I participated in one session and the results of Kim's research described above is seen in action in this library program.

Of course, there is access to books, in fact a lot of books. My son and daughter both spent quite some time scanning through books they could borrow from the library:

Both found books they wanted to read:

Indeed, supporting summer reading goes beyond providing books. During the session, a reading resource teacher, Jacquie Heller, was also there. She reminded the children of three important things by which one can get really immersed in reading:

Expression, Connection, Visualize (making reading more effective)
Heller used the book, "Dragons Love Tacos" to illustrate what expression, connection and visualize mean while reading.

Dragons Love Tacos
Young children very much need a scaffold. By reading a book with the proper expression, moods and tones are set appropriately. Making connections is equally important as a child begins to see the book through his or her experiences. Visualizing dramatizes what the child reads and when a child has a picture, the child remembers what he or she reads a lot easier. What is likewise clear is that these three things facilitate a love for reading. It is that love that makes comprehension a bit easier, and young children still need adults to show the way.

Giving a book is a good start, but it should not end there. We still need a parent or teacher to guide.