According to the organization Reading is Fundamental, students experience from a one- to three-month loss of reading skills in summer if they don’t continue to read regularly. Laura Walters, RIF’s manager of programs, said reading doesn’t have to start with books.
“So just giving kids the opportunity to choose the type of material that they read,” she said, “and keeping in mind that it doesn’t always have to be a book, that it might be a magazine, it might be a newspaper – even if it’s just a cereal box or signs driving down the road.”
Walters said younger children should read for at least 15 minutes a day during summer and older kids should read for a minimum of a half hour. In 2015, more than 48 percent of Tennessee students in grades three through eight passed the state’s proficiency bar in 2015, meaning more than half were not at grade level.
According to the latest data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, 13 percent of Tennessee adults lack basic literacy skills. Regardless of a student’s intended profession, said Ed Deleon, RIF’s chief program and content officer, reading skills are an indicator of future success.
“Literacy skills are just so important in the job market and in academia,” he said, “that without the proper literacy skills it’s really difficult to make your way in the world.”
While an incentive program for children to read in the summer can help, Walters said, the best strategy is taking them to the library to let them choose the books or publications that interest them most.
“Internal motivation is probably the most important thing and knowing what drives your child,” she said. “Another big factor is, of course, making sure that the children see that their parents are reading themselves.”
Organizations such as RIF, Read 2 Succeed and others often offer free summer reading books for children.