Summer Reading

It’s well established within the education profession that when students read during the summer, even as few as 4 to 5 books (see references below), they tend to not experience what is commonly referred to as “summer slide.” The summer effect on student achievement is well-researched: “The long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, leads to forgetting, and requires a significant amount of review when students return to school in the fall” (Cooper 2003, 2). Research findings have consistently reported that: (1) student learning declines or remains the same during the summer months; and (2) the magnitude of the change differs by socio-economic status (Malach and Rutter 2003).

A meta-analysis of thirty-nine studies examined the effects of summer vacation on standardized test scores (Cooper et al. 1996). Findings indicate that summer learning loss equaled at least one month of instruction as measured by grade-level equivalents on standardized test scores. Family income emerged as the best predictor of loss in reading comprehension and word recognition. On some measures, many children from middle class and affluent families showed gains in reading achievement over the summer, but all income levels showed lower reading comprehension scores. Disadvantaged children showed the greatest losses, with a loss of three months of grade-level equivalency during the summer months each year, compared with an average of one month loss by middle-income children when reading and math performance are combined (retrieved from the American Library Association [ALA], June 13, 2011).

As increased reading and improved reading ability are correlated, arguments can be made that increasing the amount of reading over the summer months contributes to enhanced reading proficiency. In a seminal study (Heyns, 1978) on the effects of summer reading, the academic progress of 3,000 grade six and seven students was tracked over a two-year period. The study found that the number of books read during the summer was consistently related to educational success. In addition, those children reading more than six books over the summer experienced even greater reading improvements. A more recent study, examining the effects of summer reading, found that reading at least 4 to 5 books over the summer helped to maintain reading proficiency (Kim, 2004;, page 7, retrieved June 3, 2011).

It’s the desire of all those concerned with student learning to get the word out about the importance of summer reading. The Wyoming Department of Education encourages everyone to become engaged in this important work. We urge everyone to visit a library and experience the many rewards associated with reading.