2016-08-11 / Opinion


Prevent Summer Slide

Lazy afternoons on the beach, surfing, catching fireflies – summer vacation is the footing of childhood memories. With Sept. 7 as Newport’s first day of school, students have another month to continue to enjoy “no more pencils, no more books.” However, the pleasures of summer do not come without an academic cost.

By the first day of school, students perform at levels that average one month behind where they left off in the spring, according to RAND, a nonprofit research company. The phenomenon, known as the “summer slide,” is cumulative over the years and impacts children of low-income households the most. In fact, the summer slide may be among the most significant contributors to the high school dropout rate and accounts for two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower and higher income households, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

Although high-quality summer programs are effective at reducing the summer slide, families have an affordable, effective tool that they may add to their beach bag – books. Students who read just 20 minutes a day showed less of a decline in reading achievement scores from spring to fall.

Newport students are struggling in reading with alarming discrepancies between household income levels. In 2015, only 23 percent of Pell School’s low-income third-graders met reading expectations on the state assessment, compared to 68 percent of their high-income classmates, a gap of 45 percentage points. Last week, Newport announced the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), a national movement to enhance literacy.

Research demonstrates preventing summer slide is most effective when community organizations work together to encourage kids to read, which is precisely what Newport has in store. The School Department is working with local organizations such as the van Beuren Charitable Trust, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the Prince Charitable Trust, Newport Partnership for Families, the Boys & Girls Club of Newport, the MLK Center, and the Newport Housing Authority.

We applaud the Newport district for reaching outside school walls to motivate our children to read. We hope parents will do the same.

Every day, encourage your child to spend at least 20 minutes reading. Turn off the television (yes, even the Olympics). When children read for enjoyment, they obtain the most achievement gains, so allow your young readers to select the books. Our public libraries offer an excellent free resource for families and promote summer reading challenges to help children find books that they will enjoy. Pick up some books for yourself; children that see adults reading often tend to read more themselves.

As Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

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