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SummerReads: Developing Successful Readers

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Published on Mar 7, 2012

In this video Dr. Hiebert talks about four features that children need in their summer reading program.

Hi, I'm Freddy Hiebert, the president and CEO of TextProject, a not-for-profit that supports appropriate text for beginning readers. Today I'd like to talk to you about the importance of summer reading.

It might seem surprising at first to learn that summer reading accounts for much of the achievement gap between struggling and proficient readers. Most children make similar gains in reading during the school year. When children don't read during the summer, their reading skills slide. On second thought, this finding makes sense. A lapse in applying skills can mean a slide in any proficiency—whether it's piano, golf, or reading.

So what kind of books should students be reading to prevent the summer slide?
There are four features of the books that children need for at least part of their summer reading program.

Books need to be accessible. That is, children should be able to read books without considerable struggle. Researchers have found that children won't read books that are too hard for them over the summer. What makes a book hard or easy? There are 4,000 word families that account for almost 90% of the words in books. A word family is a group of words such as help, helps, helped, helper and helping. If students read the words from these 4,000 families slowly, it harms their comprehension and interest. For developing readers, summer reading needs to provide opportunities with this core vocabulary.

Next, books need to be engaging—books that students want to read. Children, like all human beings, love information. This is great because information is the currency of the 21st century. Books that students read in the summer need to give them lots and lots of information.




Third, there need to be sufficient numbers texts. Research from Harvard University indicates that 7-10 books spread over the summer helps keep students from experiencing the summer sliding.

Finally, books need to be accompanied with a system for setting and measuring goals. The goal shouldn't be unrealistic—even 7-10 books is sufficient as the Harvard research shows. But setting a goal and keeping track of that goal is really important over the summer. Now if they don't have someone at home who can help them with that, teachers can support their student by setting the goals at the beginning of summer. But it is also very very critical that you monitor what children did at the end of the summer.

So where can you get accessible, engaging and sufficient books for summer reading...with a goal-setting system?
I've developed a program of books with all four characteristics—SummerReads™. These books are available for free download at textproject.org.

SummerReads have all of the features of successful summer reading programs:
ACCESSIBLE: SummerReads give students many of experiences with the 4,000 core word families.

ENGAGING: Topics of SummerReads deal with information about summer activities, such as the origins of the swim fins or flip flops.

SUFFICIENT: There are 7 books, at each of 3 levels. If students finish the books of one level before the end of the summer, they can start on the next.

GOAL-SETTING: SummerReads support students in setting goals with guidelines, comprehension questions, and record form. AND: If students have access to computers (e.g., the library), recordings of the books and answers to the comprehension questions are available online at textproject.org

Whatever the books your students read this summer, be certain that they are accessible, sufficient and engaging with a goal-setting system. Here's to an enjoyable and productive summer of reading!

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