Summer Reading Programs Work Best When Kids Choose the Books

Photo from Project READ at School 36A study, conducted in kindergarten, first-, and second-grade classrooms in the Rochester City School District, showed that students who were allowed to choose their own summer reading saw lower levels of literacy loss over the summer months.
Erin T. Kelly, the study's lead researcher and a fourth-year resident in the Medicine-Pediatrics program, conducted her initial study in 2013. She arranged a book fair for 18 second-graders, who were allowed to select 13 books to bring home with them for the summer. When that class showed improvement over a control group that had their books selected for them, she expanded the project to several classes in 2014. She also measured for differences based on what portion of books the students were allowed to select themselves.
More than 75 percent of students who were allowed to select at least some of their books maintained or improved their reading levels, compared to a one-month literacy loss seen in previous studies. No significant difference was seen in students who picked all of their own books, compared with a group that selected only some.
Starting this summer, the Rochester City School District is now offering choice to all of its K-2 students, and the findings could prove valuable for other districts with low-income students as well, said Kelly. Previous studies have shown that the summer slide in literacy accounts for roughly 80 percent of the reading achievement gap between more and less economically advantaged children.

Carol Anne St. George, assistant professor in teaching and curriculum at the Warner School of Education, and Warner's reading and literacies master's students helped to implement the study.
(Featured in the May 22, 2015 issue of Research Connections)

Tags: Carol Anne St. George, literacy, Project READ, Reading/Literacy, research