Solution to Boosting Summer Reading: Let Children Choose the Books

National Summer Learning Association and Sylvan Learning

National Summer Learning Association and Sylvan Learning Offer Solution to Boosting Summer Reading: Let Children Choose the Books

Baltimore - As summer vacations begin across the nation, a new Sylvan Learning survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive among 1,190 youths ages 8-18 from March 14-21, highlights a key challenge in curbing the well-documented risks of summer learning loss in students. Less than half of American youths identify reading as a favorite summer activity. According to this survey, playing video games was identified most often as a favorite summer activity among boys (83%), while reading books ranked 6th with just over one-third (34%) saying this is a favorite thing to do in summer. In contrast, girls are almost twice as likely as boys to report that reading books is a favorite summer pastime (64%) and it ranks 3rd on their list.

For U.S. children overall, reading (49%) is less popular than watching movies or TV (75%), playing video games (68%), playing outside with friends (65%) or going to the pool (65%).

While kids are more likely to want to watch movies, TV, or play video games, a recent survey of 500 teachers conducted by the National Summer Learning Association indicates that almost 9 in 10 say summer learning is important to overall student success in school. 66 percent of the 500 teachers surveyed said it takes them at least 3-4 weeks to re-teach the previous year's skills at the beginning of a new school year. Moreover, 24 percent said it takes 5 weeks or more. Additionally, 77 percent of teachers agree students who have participated in summer learning programs are better prepared in the fall.

Research shows that a summer without learning opportunities presents a risk for kids, particularly for those from low-income families. Low-income youth also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their middle-income peers make slight gains. These losses are cumulative and lead to a widening achievement gap, placement in less rigorous high school courses, higher high school dropout rates, and lower college attendance.

The good news, according to the Sylvan Learning survey, is that the vast majority of those youths - 94 percent - report that they like reading when they can choose the books themselves.

"When children lack opportunities for summer learning, the effects are extremely detrimental," said Gary Huggins, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. "But parents and summer learning programs can prevent summer slide by providing engaging learning experiences and encouraging kids to read. Kids benefit most when they can choose books that match their interests and reading ability, which makes reading a fun activity."

To help kick-start summer reading, the National Summer Learning Association and Sylvan Learning have partnered to promote summer reading for all students and provide resources for parents, teachers, and students, including tips, free online materials, and family-friendly resources.

"The overwhelming majority of teachers agree that summer reading is key to overall academic success," said Dr. Rick Bavaria, senior vice president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning. "Summer does not have to be a time when children lose important reading skills. It is very important that we make it easy and convenient for children to access the kinds of books they want to read. To encourage students to begin their reading adventure this summer, we have assembled a recommended reading list with dozens of students' favorites, broken down by topic and age, on Sylvan's web site."

Parents and students looking to start their summer reading adventure can use these five simple reading tips in their everyday life -

  • Browse your community library: More than 90 percent of students of all ages agree that they like reading books they choose themselves. Visit your library with your child and show them how to locate the books that they want to read.

  • Combine other favorite activities with reading: Do you drive your children to the pool on a regular basis? Make a stop at the library a regular part of your pool routine and check out a book, either for poolside reading or to unwind with after a day of physical activity.

  • Negotiate a reward: Put a value on reading by rewarding it. Work with your child to create a reading goal: for example, reading for a certain length of time every day or reading a certain number of books. Let them choose the books and the reward so they can "earn and learn."

  • Get an e-book reader. Children love devices. With many e-book readers now available at well under $100, and e-books available at prices comparable or less than hard-copy books, it may be worth investing in technology that today's tech-savvy youth prefer. Moreover, thousands of e-books can either be downloaded free or "borrowed" at no charge from local libraries.

  • Use those movie-book tie-ins: When film companies base a movie on a book, they also make sure to publish a new "tie-in" edition of that book with a movie scene on the cover. Linking a book to a movie also makes your job easier. Show children how they can enjoy their favorite on-screen stories by reading, as well as watching.

For additional summer learning resources and Sylvan Learning's recommended reading lists, please visit the National Summer Learning Day Resources for Families and Sylvan's Blog.

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