Summer reading key to learning
Donavan Rivera (left) and John Depasquale, both 6 eat while listening to the story.
Updated: July 22, 2012 6:17AM
The summer season is upon us and school is out but that doesn’t mean kids should give their brains a break, too.
In between vacationing, playing and sleeping in, students are asked to do one task during their time off: pick up a book.
Knowledge retention during school breaks is vital to continued academic growth, said Nancy Devlin, head of children’s services at Eisenhower Public Library.
“If a child does not read over the summer, they have to be re-educated,” she said. “This costs money.”
According to a 2005 study, Devlin said, re-education in the fall costs $900 per pupil.
“Imagine (the total) for all the kids,” she said.
Students who continuously skimp on reading independently outside the classroom can end up years behind in school.
“Reading is the biggest advantage to maintaining their skills through the summer,” Devlin said.
The library works with several area schools to ensure its shelves are stocked with titles from summer reading lists given by teachers to their classes before the school year concludes.
At James Giles School in Norridge, students of every grade level leave school in the summer with book recommendations on a range of topics appropriate for their age.
“Reading in the areas that they are interested in is most important,” said Principal Kerry Leiby. “The kids are finding books that they enjoy and the response has been great.”
“We know that they’re doing something (educational) over the summer,” he said.
Giles also offers three-week-long enrichment classes in June for students who prefer guided reading.
Incoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Union Ridge Middle School in Harwood Heights are expected to not only read at least one book over the summer but also to participate in an online discussion and create a project based on its plot.
Principal Michael Maguire’s book selection this year, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, is a young adult adaptation of James Swanson’s bestseller Manhunt.
Maguire said he chose the book in part to meet Illinois learning standards that require schools to create more opportunities for non-fiction reading.
Teachers and administrators manage Wiki websites where students respond to questions and comments presented throughout the summer.
“We don’t want to make it too labor intensive over the summer,” Maguire said. “We want them to enjoy the book. That is the goal.”
On the online discussion forum last week, he asked students to describe John Wilkes Booth in five words, to which one seventh-grader replied: “Booth is loyal, deceiving, self-centered, careful, and recognizable.”
The projects, too, are designed to be fun. Maguire’s group of seventh-graders can choose to create a video trailer, construct a diorama, or map a timeline of the book’s events.
Summer reading requirements are especially common at the high-school level, as books serve as a springboard into new lessons when classes commence in the fall.
“The summer is a perfect time for students to read books dealing with similar concepts to those upon which their new courses revolve,” said Mavis Netterstrom, the English department chair at Ridgewood High School.
Incoming Ridgewood students read two books of their choosing from a list developed by English teachers in close collaboration with the school’s librarian.
One of the freshmen’s two selections must be John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. All seniors read Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
“Students who do not complete the reading are starting the year at a disadvantage in terms of understanding new material,” Netterstrom said. “They will have to (eventually) complete the summer reading, but this is a difficult task once the hectic new school year begins.”
In addition to keeping students’ minds sharp, educators hope leisurely summer reading translates into positive habits.
“As English teachers, it is our goal to help instill a lifelong love of reading in our students,” said Netterstrom.