From the “duh” department:
For one class, researchers ran a book fair, where each student picked 13 books to take home at the end of the school year. The fair featured a broad range of selections — fiction and nonfiction, classics and newer works — and students eagerly passed the books back and forth, reveling in the opportunity to pick those matching their personal interests while chattering with one another about familiar stories. (An adaptation of Disney’s “Frozen” was especially popular.) Many also chose works considerably above or below their reading levels so they could share with siblings.
The other class of students received books by mail from the already-in-place community program.
Both classes were given literacy tests before summer vacation and again when they returned in the fall. Sure enough, the students who chose their own books did better, improving from the previous summer. Those in the community program showed no improvement.
A follow-up study involved six classes, with a total of 87 students, and compared those who selected all of their summer books with those who chose some of their own books, while educators picked the rest. There was no significant difference between the two groups. Seventy-five percent of the students either maintained or improved their reading levels over the summer, which is much better than typically expected.
There are some frightening stats in there, such as, “students living in poverty who cannot read proficiently by third grade are 13 times less likely to graduate from high school.” So let kids choose their own books!
I think that the balance of choosing books and having a couple thrown in that are assigned is a much better tactic than not offering a choice. Letting children read for fun is still reading and maintaining their skills. Most likely they are reading material that is at or above their grade level all school year so a little time to read for fun over the summer should be encouraged.
From my experience assigned summer reading lists are put off until the last minute and are dreaded in comparison to anything else that kids could chose to do. The kids are made to do things all school year long and then revolt against anything remotely related that institution until they feel that they don’t have a choice all over again and have to read the book.
The best article that I have read lately was about a mom that read aloud to her children even up to the days that her teenagers were going off to college. Her family really enjoyed the time together and had further conversations about the books that they were reading. Story telling of all kinds is engaging and I think that its odd that we stop this activity when a child exhibits the ability to read to themselves. I have always been drawn to times in the past when people would get together to listen to someone read or listen to radio programs of someone telling a story. I am glad that maiki is a good story teller for Clover. It makes me happy.
We do a lot of reading together now, but I hadn’t thought about continuing it as the kids got older; definitely will now. Also, I agree with your radio comment. I think I might try finding a kids audio book and us all listening to it together and see if it is something they would be interested in now.