Summer Reading Gives Children Academic Advantages

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

The New York State Assembly Summer reading challenges will begin appearing throughout local schools and libraries for parents and children this month. This brochure, which features a calendar and a space to keep track of reading time throughout the summer, challenges kids to read for at least 15 minutes a day for 40 days throughout the summer months with an adult or on their own.

More than 5,000 Summer Reading Brochures will be circulated to schools and libraries within the 124th Assembly District. I’m pleased that every year the response to the program grows. More teachers, librarians and parents help circulate the brochures and take the time to explain the program. Those who complete the challenge are encouraged to mail in their form to obtain a New York State Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate.

I strongly believe in this challenge. Reading skills are determining factors in the success of academic careers. The first few years of school for a child are formative and often set the tone for the rest of their academic careers. A good foundation in literacy gives children an advantage in school. Study after study shows that the harder reading is for a child, the less likely they are to feel confident in the classroom. School work becomes difficult and the child feels alienated from classmates, and the curriculum, which can negatively affect their self-esteem which leads to other social problems. That’s why it’s important for parents and grandparents, teachers and older role models to instill a love of books and literature for children.

Research shows there’s a connection between leisure reading, access to books and success in school. In 2009, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described summer learning loss as “devastating.” Researchers often refer to this as the “summer slide.” It is estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being disproportionately affected. Researchers conclude that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years, with nearly one-third of the gap present when children begin school. All of this research demonstrates the critical importance that the early development of summer reading habits can play in providing the foundation for later success.

Summer gives children the opportunity to explore their individual interests. Public library summer reading programs are offered free of charge to all children, from toddlers to teens and are one of the best bargains around. Library staff help children select reading materials and provide literacy-enhancing programs such as storytelling, music and puppet shows. Children and teens are also encouraged to come to the library to safely use the internet and socialize with peers. Parents are encouraged to participate as well. By leisurely reading ourselves, we parents can provide motivation for children and plant a desire to read.

Last year, 1.5 million students participated in the summer reading challenge. Our office works directly with the New York State Education Department, local libraries and school districts to help promote summer reading. Last October, in conjunction with Oswego Library, my office and I hosted a summer reading party. All children who completed the challenge were awarded certificates, served treats and refreshments and awarded prizes. This gave me an opportunity to meet some of my youngest constituents and have some Halloween treats too.

The summer reading brochure features a suggested reading list, which is broken up into different categories that includes adventure, humor, friendship, fantasy, history and sports. It also lists books that preschoolers and early readers will enjoy. This year’s theme is “Make a Splash—READ!” I encourage you and your family to take up the challenge. To obtain a form, contact the district office at 315-598-5185 or e-mail your name and address to [email protected] Residents may also mail in a request for a brochure to 200 N. Second St., Fulton, N.Y. 13069.