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Growing a Love of Reading, Preventing Summer Slide

Growing a Love of Reading, Preventing Summer Slide
Posted on 04/19/2017

A few years ago, researchers completed a study analyzing 20 years of data from 27 nations, looking for a common thread among students who achieve educational success. What they found is that, beyond the parents' education level, occupational status or income level, children raised in a home with an ample supply of books performed better — attaining an average 3.2 years of additional schooling — than children in a home with few or no books. The presence of books in the home made an even greater impact among parents with low income or little education.

Volumes of research goes on to link the importance of reading in the home with reading proficiency, school readiness, educational achievement, positive behavior, stronger bonds between parents and child and higher lifetime income. Supporting reading from an early age develops a love of learning that is commonly passed down from generation to generation.

We especially stress the importance of giving students access to books in the home and helping them develop reading skills between preschool and third grade, because, as teachers often say, “students must learn to read before they can read to learn.” In other words, it is critical that students spend their early years mastering their ability to read and comprehend so they can continue to middle school, high school and beyond using their reading skills to learn history, creative writing, mathematical word problems, biology, foreign language, etc.

At the secondary level, students can also grow their ability to read into a love of reading. And that love of reading can blossom into an esteem for scholarly behavior, embrace of curiosity and desire for learning that becomes a part of their personality for the rest of their lives. Allowing students to select their own books, whether at home or in a library or book store, helps to encourage this love of reading. It gives students an opportunity to explore subjects and authors that interest them, as well as an increased sense of owning their own learning.

As we come into the final months of the school year, a major roadblock to reading development starts to creep back into the minds of many LISD teachers and librarians: summer slide. Every year, too many of our students go from reading daily in the classroom and for homework, to seldom reading, if at all, as they enjoy their summer months away from school. While all students need and deserve a break from the rigor of schoolwork, this hiatus from reading frequently sets students back several months upon their return to school, leaving them worse off than when they finished the previous school year.

To help combat summer slide, or summer melt, LISD launched an initiative a few years ago called Summer Reading for All (#SR4A). Its goal is to help remove barriers to summer reading by ensuring all students have access to books at home and can start the following school year without missing a beat. At our Continuous Improvement Conference for staff in February and through the spring, we held book drives to collect reading books, particularly young adult literature for our secondary students. We have also partnered with the Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF), which will once again provide thousands of children's books to support SR4A.

Next month, campuses will distribute the collected books to students to take home. While each school has a different system, many will allow students to come by class to select the book they are most interested in, encouraging them to pick a title they are most likely to read at home.

Beyond SR4A, students can access thousands of e-books and audiobooks any time, any day using Overdrive, our digital library. Books are available for download for two weeks, including new and popular titles, audio books and even narrated read-along books for our younger students.

Additionally, the Leander, Cedar Park and Austin city libraries will be open throughout the summer, as well as some LISD school libraries. The list of open campus libraries, operating days and hours will be publicized on our website nearer the end of the school year.

I would encourage each of you to take advantage of these great resources, to help urge your children to spend some time reading this summer by the pool, on a road trip or curled up on the couch during the long, hot days to come. I would also encourage you join your kids in reading and to model the behaviors that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Together, we can continue the valuable progress being made in the classroom throughout the summer to make the 2017-18 school year an even brighter one for each LISD student.