Let kids pick their own books!

[From the vaults at stabenow.com, Oct 4, 2010 ]

Summer Must-Read for Kids? Any Book
Published: August 2, 2010
A report says that for some children, the reading skills lost over the summer represent about two months’ worth of schooling.



…the price for keeping the books closed is a high one. Several studies have documented a “summer slide” in reading skills once school lets out each spring. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of about two months of school each summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. And the loss compounds each year…

The study, financed by the federal Department of Education, tracked the reading habits and test stores of more than 1,300 Florida children from 17 low-income schools. Most of the children were poor enough to receive discounted or free school lunches…

Children who had received free books posted significantly higher test scores than the children who received activity books. The effect, 1/16th of a standard deviation in test scores, was equivalent to a child attending three years of summer school, according to the report to be published in September in the journal Reading Psychology. The difference in scores was twice as high among the poorest children in the study…

And —

One of the most notable findings was that children improved their reading scores even though they typically weren’t selecting the curriculum books or classics that teachers normally assigned for summer reading. That conclusion confirms other studies suggesting that children learn best when they are allowed to select their own books.

Make books available to kids, and let ’em pick their own, i.e., don’t force them to read I Cannot Tell a Lie: George Washington and the Lingering Influence of M. domestica because it’ll be good for them to know about the father of their country. They’ll learn more (and have a better shot at developing a reading habit) from The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

Book Review Monday Chatter

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. When my 13yo was on a play date with a friend, her mother called from the libary all alarmed, because my 13yo checked out a book all by herself. HER daughter has to go through her, and they apparently have power struggles over what’s “appropriate.” Our kids were never censored on reading materials (yes on movies, though.)
    This turned a bit embarrassing years ago, when my older daughter was 8 and read “Jaws.” She loved the book even more than the movie, and wanted another read by the same author. My husband recommended “The Abyss,” having forgotten that it has an explicit sex scene. Our 8 year old reported at the dinner table that she kind of skipped over the “in-and-out, in-and-out part where they were naked,” because it was boring and made no sense. She is now a young college woman, with a job, making us all proud. Apparently she survived a non-censored reading experience in one piece.

  2. I’m all for kids reading. I can remember riding my bike to the public library all the time when I was a kid. We have always made sure that my nephews were read to as little kids, and they have turned into big readers as well. They are surrounded by books in their home and it really makes a big difference.

    The scientist in me, however, wonders about the statistics from the report. 1/16 of one standard deviation is a very small amount of variation…I’d be interested to see how they determined the correlation with three years of summer school… I’d love to see the original data on this!

    Or, maybe I should just tell my scientist self to “hush up” and go read a book or something…

  3. I agree with your premise that it is good to let children pick their own books. One of my grandsons takes a side step; having read most of the Harry Potter books he began moving to the movies.
    He does like Sci/fi for people at his age level. However, he’s just turned 18 and will need something other than video games to present him at Christmas.
    PS I’m still waiting for Kate’s return. But am reading other books–
    JAJance and Nevada Barr. Thank God there are several good women writers. 🙂

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