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Where have all the summer reading assignments gone?


Rather than assigning simple questions for summer assignments, why not have students revert back to writing book reports?

summer-reading-slide

Summer: a time in a child’s life where they are no longer bound by mandates to attend school or do anything school-related. To do so, in some children’s eyes, would be to commit a global faux pas.

Those stuck on this idea are in for a rude awakening.

Studies have proven that children who do not read during the summer lose much of the valuable knowledge they gained during the school year. In an odd way, brains are turning into mush.

But it’s not the mush you think about in those old sci-fi movies; rather, kids are just falling behind on their reading skills. Students who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement; for some this means losing two years, according to the Reading is Fundamental Organization.

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(Next page: How summer reading helps students)

There was a time in middle school where I can recall having to pick two books –one fiction and one non-fiction—and  write a two page summary pinpointing all key facts. In 2014 it seems things have shifted somewhat.

After looking over assignments given to middle and high school students, it appears kids are being let off the hook pretty easy these days. While an argument can be made that administrators are assigning these simpler assignments to get students to participate, I’m not sure this is the way to go about getting students on board with reading.

For example, one high school in northern Maryland is giving its rising juniors and seniors an assignment in which they only have to read a 600-word article and fill out a sheet that pinpoints specific aspects of the article.

Six hundred pages is one thing, but 600 words is something of its own. After seeing the assignments schools are handing out, I asked myself: “What happened to reading an actual book? What is this telling the younger generation?”

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The fact remains that reading provides several benefits.  For starters, there’s mental stimulation, vocabulary expansion, greater field of knowledge, memory improvement, stronger analytical thinking skills, improved focus and concentration, and of course stronger writing skills.

Where schools might be letting you down, your local library is there to be the wind beneath your wings. Libraries are holding several programs throughout the year aiming to motivate kids of different ages to participate in reading, which just might be the missing link to better enhance those reading assignments, especially those given for the summer break.

Since the early 1890s, libraries have used summer reading programs as a way to encourage others to read, according to the American Library Association, which is a clear indicator as to why the partnership between schools and libraries work so well together.

Summer reading programs have benefits which include encouraging kids to read in a group setting and further enhance and boost reading skills, but when libraries offer such great benefits does this let administrators and teachers off the hook?

“During the summer it’s more about the librarians than the teachers themselves,” said Terri Grief, president of the American Association of School Librarians. “But I would like to think we are partners because it’s all about the kids.”

Coming up with the perfect summer assignment doesn’t happen overnight. In order to move in the right direction administrators might think to keep schools open during the summer and possibly release the summer reading lists earlier on in the year, according to Grief.

Keeping schools open during the summertime allows for students to get personal help from librarians that see them throughout the school year. While community librarians can give suggestions based on information given to students, a school librarian can offer a more personalized recommendation.

All and all while summer reading assignments are being edited to reflect the changing times, it’s clear to say in cases where one format works for some it may not work for others. Summer is a critical point for students, especially for students needing more help when learning new concepts.

Gaby Arancibia is an editorial intern at eSchool News.

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