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By Rob Finlay
The “summer slump” or “slide” in literacy occurs when the gains made in literacy during the academic year are lost over the summer holidays. It is a particular problem for lower decile schools.
Many low-decile schools make a positive impact in student literacy over the course of a school year which is lost due to the lack of reading over long summer holidays. Clayton Park School in Manurewa tackled this issue by setting up a planned intervention which they monitored, measured and evaluated.
The approach was underpinned by a close analysis of literacy scores in successive Februaries and Novembers to establish a baseline, taking into account variance in months from expected age reading scores. For the study, the students were placed into three cohorts: “at-risk Māori”, “at-risk Pasifika” and “high-performing students”.
Deliberate interventions followed to improve teacher effectiveness. Existing Home-School Partnership meetings were used to keep parents informed. At the last meeting of the year the school set up summer reading contracts, goals and expectations with families as well as giving the parents strategies for helping children with their reading
The reading scores, both during the year and at the end of the summer holidays, were reviewed, and the strategy modified accordingly in an annual iterative process beginning in 2005.
The number of students who complete their contracts has grown over the six years the programme has been running has increased from 6 percent to 23 percent. For those students who complete the contracts, the results have been very gratifying, with an average gain of 5.7months in reading age over the summer break. Furthermore, as compared to students who fail to complete the contracts, these students have also experienced a year-on-year gain even greater than the national average annual reading gain. Conversely those who don’t complete their contracts slide backwards in their reading levels and do not experience a “catch-up” effect when they return to school.
The authors: Paul Wright, Principal at Clayton Park School and Dr Cathy Wright, researcher at Auckland University, conclude that the sustained practice of summer reading as part of a wider strategy leads to improved literacy gains.
For the full article :
Wright, Paul & Wright, Cathy. “An initiative to counter the “summer reading drop”: an iterative process”. Set 2, 2011, p 38-46, NZCER.
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