Sent to the Tampa Bay Times, July 1, 2013.
Pinellas' summer program ("Summer Bridge schooling kicks off in Pinellas County," June 29) is doing it the the hard way: More classroom instruction in reading is not nearly as effective as encouraging free voluntary self-selected reading.
The first study of the summer slump, done 1975 by Barbara Heyns, showed that the difference in reading development between children from low and middle incomes is largely the result of lack of access to reading material over the summer. Heyns found that those who live closer to libraries read more, and both Hayns and Harvard scholar Jimmy Kim, 30 years later, found that children who read more over the summer made more gains in reading.
Also, Fay Shin and I reported that 6th graders behind in reading who participated in a summer program focusing on self-selected reading and plenty of library time made dramatic gains in reading.
All this agrees with mountains of research showing that extensive reading for pleasure is far more effective than traditional classroom instruction in reading for boosting reading proficiency, as well as studies showing that better libraries mean higher reading proficiency.
Summer reading: Heyns, Barbara. 1975. Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press; Kim, Jimmy. 2003. “Summer reading and the ethnic achievement gap,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9, no. 2:169-188; Shin, F. and Krashen, S. 2007. Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Reading for pleasure and libraries: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CONN: Libraries Unlimited (second edition). Krashen, S. 2011. Free Voluntary Reading. Westport: Libraries Unlimited. Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36. Lance, Keith. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement. http://www.lrs.org/impact.php