Let’s Pledge to Make Literacy a Year-Round Priority

 //  Mar 6, 2018

Let’s Pledge to Make Literacy a Year-Round Priority

We’ve witnessed the tremendous strength that schools, families, and communities have in supporting student learning, especially over the summer. In October 2017, the Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence recognized Make Summer Count 2016, a partnership among Greenville County Schools, Public Education Partners, and Scholastic, for its work to help prevent summer learning loss.

Recently, Michael Haggen, Chief Academic Officer, Scholastic Education, contributed a story to Language Magazine titled “Year-Round Reading.” The article explores how summer reading is an integral and achievable piece in a district’s comprehensive literacy plan, with Make Summer Count 2016 as an example.

As part of this discussion, Michael highlights four essential factors that he believes significantly contribute to the positive results of programs such as Make Summer Count 2016, which can be replicated across the country. These factors include family engagement, professional learning opportunities for educators, promoting choice, and increasing access to books. Below is an excerpt from the article which outlines the results of Make Summer Count 2016, and highlights specific ways that districts can make literacy a priority while school is out of session.

You can read the full-length article here.


Year-Round Reading

Michael Haggen explains how summer reading is an integral and achievable piece in a district’s comprehensive literacy plan

With the end of another school year nearing, we must remember to keep the imperative message of reading over the summer top of mind, even as we look forward to end-of-year activities. Because the summer slide—the common loss of academic skills while students are not in school—is responsible for as much as 85% of the reading achievement gap between higher- and lower-income students (Allington, McGill-Franzen, 2009), we cannot risk entering summer without a plan to make the home-to-school connection around literacy. 

I have been re-energized around summer learning thanks to incredible work I have seen in districts across the country, and also because I’ve been reminded there is still much work to be done. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 6th Edition, a national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents, revealed that only 48% of parents have heard of the summer slide. There is also an inequity of information: only 38% of low-income parents are aware of the summer slide, and one in five kids from low-income families told us they did not read any books over the summer. This is a problem that we need to address. 

Overall, we found that for parents who have heard of the summer slide, teachers and schools are their number-one source of information about it. This is a strong call to action for educators to ensure all families in our communities have access to the information and resources they need to make summer count and turn the summer slide into a summer leap. 

An excellent model for this can be found in Greenville County Schools in South Carolina. Last year, local nonprofit Public Education Partners (PEP) released results of a new research study examining the effects of Make Summer Count 2016,a reading initiative supporting summer learning for 18,000 students in grades K–5 across 29 higher-needs elementary schools. PEP and Scholastic provided participating students with the opportunity to select 11 books of their choice to take home for summer reading, and hosted 23 Family Reading Night events to foster family engagement. 

The research findings indicate that with increased access to books and family engagement, a majority of students maintained or increased their reading levels over the summer of 2016, and also that the program had an overall positive impact on students’ reading habits and attitudes. In October 2017, Make Summer Count was awarded the Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence for demonstrating successful strategies to help prevent summer learning loss, in large part due to the research around the program displaying an overwhelmingly positive impact. You can find the full results in the report Addressing Summer Reading Loss: A Public Education Partners and Greenville County Schools Initiative, but here are a few incredible highlights: 

  • Seventy-eight percent of students in grades 3–5 maintained or increased their reading levels from spring to fall 2016.
  • Students read an average of 14.7 books, compared to the national average of 12 books—a statistic reported in the Kids & Family Reading Report: 6th Edition.
  • The percentage of students who read for one hour or more without stopping grew from 13% to 26%.
  • Eighty-two percent of students agreed that they were better readers after the summer.
  • Ninety-eight percent of families agreed that their children were better readers because of summer reading.
  • Ninety-nine percent of families agreed that the program contributed to their children reading more books over the summer.
  • One hundred percent of families found Family Reading Nights valuable for learning about how to support their children’s reading.

While reflecting on the powerful results of the work done in Greenville, I want to call attention to four essential factors that I believe significantly contribute to the success of programs such as Make Summer Count, which can be replicated across the country.

Excerpt and cover image from March 2018 issue of Language Magazine printed with permission from Language Magazine.