Educators say students leaving school for the final day this year ought to mind the gap on their way out – the summer reading gap, that is.
Research shows that students who read regularly during the warmest months do better on readings skills tests the following school year than those who do not. Three months, educators say, is simply too big of a block of time not to read.
But what can parents do when their children are not so keen on busting open a book? Reading Coach Kimberly Schwartz said the key is finding that initial text that catches their fancy. After that, it’s easy.
“After that first hook, then they will get you addicted,” Schwartz said. “But they have to have a connection to the book. It has to be a topic they like.”
Schwartz said parents should not get frustrated if it takes a little while for children to figure out what they want.
“It’s OK to abandon a text,” she said. “Give me four chapters and if you still don’t like it, that’s OK. You don’t want the student suffering through something thinking, ‘I’m in purgatory.’”
Julie Baker, reading coach at , said parents should get summer reading lists for their children. Sources include the local library, the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Program, Barnes & Noble and school websites.
Florida’s Department of Education also is hosting the 2011 Summer Literacy Adventure where youngsters can pledge to read a certain number of books over the summer as well as visit their local library.
“I would strongly encourage parents to continue to read to their children even though they think they may have outgrown that," Baker said. “There is so much value in doing that -- reading to them, reading with them, taking turns reading a chapter or a paragraph, or a page back and forth.”
Looking up information about different authors can be beneficial, Baker said, as can encouraging youngsters to read not just one but several genres. If possible, too, visit some of the places your children read about.
Summer reading can really put students at the front of the pack, according to the Florida Department of Education. Vocabulary, comprehension and general knowledge skills are kept sharp this way.
“A student who reads 21 minutes per day outside of school reads almost 2 million words per year, whereas a student who reads less than a minute per day outside of school reads only 8,000 to 21,000 words per year,” the department says in literature for its “Just Read, Florida” initiative that recommends students read at least one book every two weeks.
The state DOE suggests that students read texts that are for fun as well as ones that are for a challenge. Some words should be unfamiliar, but no more than 10% of a book should contain words that have to be looked up, the DOE says.
It can also be beneficial for students to use their voice to become better readers, Baker added.
“If they are interested at all, volunteer at daycare centers, Sunday school classes and community centers,” she said. “Have kids go in and actually read to younger children. It’s a wonderful way to grow reading in children.”