When low-income students are given books to read during the summer, they read more, a Florida study found. This summer a large-scale study in seven states will look at whether book giveaways can stem the usual “summer slide” in reading skills. USA Today’s Greg Toppo asks: “Can a $50 stack of paperback books do as much for a child’s academic fortunes as a $3,000 stint in summer school?”
Low-income students have few books at home. Walking to a public library may be dangerous. The result is a “summer slide” in academic skills that may account for 80 percent of the achievement gap by sixth grade, says Richard Allington, a reading researcher at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
Researchers note that low-income students lose about three months of ground each summer to middle-class peers.
“You do that across nine or 10 summers, and the next thing you know, you’ve got almost three years’ reading growth lost,” Allington says.
For three summers, students in 17 high-poverty elementary schools in Florida got 12 books on the last day of school. After three years, book recipients had “significantly higher” reading scores, showed less of a summer slide and read more on their own than classmates who didn’t get free books, Allington and colleagues reported.
Donate your old books and your children’s old books, writes Erin O’Connor on Critical Mass. If you’re not going to read the book again, get it off the shelf and into the hands of somebody who doesn’t have books. Since writing about Downtown College Prep in Our School, I’ve been dropping off boxes of books at the school every now and then.