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Summer reading experiment produces encouraging results

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Nov. 7, 2010 at 10:00 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Research shows one of the most detrimental things to a child's education is summer vacation.

So what if you could stop the summer slide by helping children read all summer? As part of our Read Today initiative, we tried to do just that.

Last spring, we launched an experiment at three similar Salt Lake schools. If we provided kids resources, would it keep them reading over the summer?

We tracked them, in the hopes that kids would enter school this fall right where they left off or better.


What we hope and expect to happen is that parents who monitor their child's reading will see their child not lose anything during the summer.

–Janice Dole


Last May, students at three low-income schools took year-end reading tests. Their teachers normally wouldn't expect the same scores come September.

"Often children will lose the gains they've made if they don't read in the summer," said Sharon Adamson with the Salt Lake School District. "Then it takes them until mid-year to get them back to where they were at the end of the year before."

To change that, we teamed up with the Salt Lake School District. At one school, we provided books to every 2nd- and 3rd-grader. We also offered incentives for parents to attend the meetings, to encourage them to foster reading at home and to track the reading minutes.

Those who came got on board. At a second school, we provided 2nd- and 3rd-graders books, but we didn't encourage parental involvement.

At the third school, we provided no additional resources. It was the control group.

The plan: follow these students through the summer, then test them again in the fall. Students filling their bags of books to take home committed to follow through.

"I'm going to read them at home and practice the books," said one student.

Fast forward to fall, and they did read. Our researchers found students on average read four and a half books. Experts agree six is what students need to stay on track.

Will this be enough? Our researchers were optimistic.

"What we hope and expect to happen is that parents who monitor their child's reading will see their child not lose anything during the summer," said Janice Dole with the University of Utah Center for Reading and Literacy.

Students took their fall reading tests and we recently got the scores. We'll reveal the results and show you if this investment made an impact Monday night at 10 p.m.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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Nadine Wimmer

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