The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ is a biennial, national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents, as well as parents of kids ages 0–5, exploring attitudes and behaviors around reading. As data is released throughout the spring of 2019, we’ve asked a handful of our in-house experts to dig more deeply into the report and contextualize its findings. To discuss the summer reading imperative, here is Deimosa Webber-Bey:
From my background teaching high school students in New York City and working as a public librarian in New Mexico, to my current role as the corporate librarian at Scholastic, you could say I’m a full-time resident in the world of literacy. It’s my job to know a lot about books (and I love it). I have seen the power of books first-hand: the latest book in a graphic novel series devoured standing right in front of the shelf, or a biography of someone’s hero never returned because “I need that book, Miss.” In order to facilitate moments like these, kids must have our support—not just on paper, but in concrete ways—to find books that capture their attention. Summer presents an opportunity for families and communities to play an active role in ensuring all children can find their story and enjoy the benefits of summer reading.
Let’s start with the power of sharing information. Summer reading is critical to student success; it allows kids to seamlessly build upon what they are learning from one year to the next. When kids don’t read over the summer, they are at risk of entering the next grade level having lost important momentum and key academic skills from the previous school year over break. This “summer slide,” as it is often called, is hyper-present in educators’ minds and has a real impact in the classroom. I remember clearly during my first year as a teacher, a mentor explaining that I had to spend the first few weeks reviewing content from the previous year’s curriculum before I could start doing the lessons I’d planned for September.
The Kids & Family Reading Report shows us there is much more work to be done to increase awareness among parents around the summer slide. Nearly half of parents are still unaware of this phenomenon, and just having this knowledge can make a real difference. The data show that if parents are aware of the summer slide, they and their kids are more engaged in summer reading—how motivating! And there’s more good news: the majority of kids say they understand the importance of summer reading—and, better yet, that they really enjoy it.
But there are challenges. The data reveal a troubling increase over the past few years in the percentage of kids across all ages who report reading zero books during the summer. Which brings me to the topic of access, especially for historically underserved groups, because access to books is often limited to the academic year. The data show 53% of kids get most of the books they read for fun through schools—so what happens for that majority when school isn’t in session? Public libraries and communities can be crucial partners to help close this gap by working with families over the summer.
In my own childhood, my sisters and I embraced the hot and lazy afternoons of summer reading and trading our library finds on the beach, immersing ourselves in the books of newly favorite authors, discovering interesting people and moments in history, and teaching ourselves creative arts and crafts. I hope for every child to have a similar experience. But this can’t happen unless we commit as parents, caregivers, educators and community partners to find inventive ways to get books into the hands of every child over the summer—the books theywant to read. When this happens, a child doesn’t just maintain their literacy skills, they try something new—and even have fun doing it.
Deimosa Webber-Bey is the Senior Librarian and Manager of Library Services for Scholastic.