Last year, for the first time, we continued lending over the term holidays. When this was a success I contemplated the next step - lending over the summer holidays. I read Summer Slump & Holiday Reading on the Services to Schools website. Here is a quote from the site that surprised me:
"One piece of NZ research in a Decile 1 school found that some students reading at below-average levels suffered a 5.8 month summer reading slide".
In the recommended reading, Summer Reading Loss, was more interesting research:
The reading proficiency levels of students from lower income families declined over the summer months, while the reading proficiency levels of students from middle-income families improved modestly. In a single academic year, this decline resulted in an estimated three-month achievement gap between more advantaged and less advantaged students. Between grades 1 and 6, the potential cumulative impact of this achievement gap could compound to 1.5 years' worth of reading development lost in the summer months alone. (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996).
Now, I had heard about the summer slump but the figures in these reports really blew me away. The importance of keeping our students' reading over the holidays was really driven home to me. At the same time, management were concerned about potential book losses and we agreed to trial summer holiday lending with our two Year 4 classes.
How did it go?
Each student had to return a signed permission slip before they were able to borrow six books from the library (double their usual amount). 28 of the 55 Year 4 students borrowed a total of 158 books. All books have been returned, with only one student requiring a follow up letter.
Even though not all of our Year 4 students borrowed from our school library they did all read at least one book over the summer. I'd like to think that the information about the summer slump sent to parents might have had an impact. We will definitely be doing this again this year.
Summer reading research
I was surprised that almost half of our Year 4 students did not borrow from the school library over the summer holidays. Only five were prevented by the school from borrowing due to outstanding invoices or overdue books. What stopped the remaining students from borrowing? I prepared a short survey and found that while a few simply forgot their permission slips the majority did not borrow books because they were going away for the holidays and their families didn't want to lose them.
When creating my survey I wanted to see whether those students who didn't borrow from our library were simply going to the public library instead. In light of my earlier findings about families not wanting to borrow books when they were going on holiday I was not too surprised to find that less than half of our students visited the public library in the holidays. However, I was astounded to find that only half of our students said that they, or their parents, belonged to the public library.
No way! I realise that I'm a bit biased here but I just can't get my head around that. A large amount of wonderful books are free to take home and our students, or more likely their parents, aren't taking advantage of that. Why??? Please feel free to jump in here with comments because I can't think of any reasons.