Free Books Reverse Summer Reading Loss


Summer vacation is a time for beaches, biking, and corn on the cob. For 8 in 10 children from low-income families, however, it’s also a time for losing ground in reading proficiency. An innovative Read for Success program has managed to turn that around. Instead of losing ground over the summer, 57% of students improved their reading skills.

A key component of the year-round program, piloted with 33,000 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), was providing children with new and interesting books on what are called “STEAM” themes (STEAM = science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics). Reading books on these themes sets the stage for “reading to learn,” something that typically starts in about 3rd grade. The best STEAM books pair clear illustrations and pictures with new words, concepts, and ideas.

Children were able to choose — and keep — their summer books. This can be a very big deal for children in poverty, as more than half do not have books of their own.
In another program, Reach Out and Read, Washington state children from 6 months to 5 years old get developmentally appropriate books from their doctors at every checkup. Reach Out and Read partners with 55 King County medical practices in which doctors “prescribe” books and encourage families to read together.

Communities Count reports disparities in reading to children and the proportion of students who meet the 4th-grade reading standard.