Most educators already know that the summer months can often be the most detrimental to their students, especially when dealing with kids from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. The truth of the matter is that an at-risk child's summer often includes a home without books, no way to leave a dangerous neighborhood, no routine for being exposed to new experiences, and parents who don't know how to impact the educations of their kids. The scary part about the summer is that student growth does not only stop, it actually begins to regress! To make matters worse, the drop off is cumulative, meaning that 2 or 3 years worth of regressive summers can actually set a student back a full grade level in terms of reading ability.
Here are some ways that teachers and administrators can team up with parents to address the ABCs of improved reading:
1. Access to books - This one is obvious. Research indicates that the amount and variety of print material available to students is critical in curtailing the summer setback. Parents need to recognize that print material can take many forms. Magazines, web articles, and even comic books can all count towards effective reading time.
2. Books that match readers' ability - This is an area that parents will need your help and coaching in order to meet the needs of their children. Young people need to read books that are at or slightly below their own reading levels in order to make the most gains. One way that parents can help their kids is by taking them to the local library and applying whats called the five-finger rule. Have them ask their child to read a page from a book and to raise one finger for each word that is too difficult to figure out. If the child has more than five fingers up, then the text is probably too difficult.
3. Comprehension, as monitored by an adult - This is the most critical, but also the most difficult task for parents. Suggest to them that there are different methods for monitoring comprehension, but that the most effective ones are relatively simple. Parents can ask questions about the story or ask the child to simply summarize what is happening. They can also have the child reread hard to understand passages. One way to assist parents in doing this is to provide them with a strategic reading log, which scaffolds student interaction by prompting 8 essential skills used by proficient readers. Another helpful tool is the double entry journal, which requires students to record direct quotes and salient conclusions. These tools are helpful for parents because they are easy to implement, especially if you teach your students about them before the end of the year.
You can download some of those tools here:
Before the school year finishes, stress the importance of summer reading, not only to your kids, but to their parents too. When it comes to reading comprehension, the old adage, "If you don't use it, you lose it," is more true than ever.
Rosemead High School
El Monte Union High School District