WASHINGTON, May 12, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 80 percent of children from economically disadvantaged communities lose reading skills over the summer because they lack access to books, learning resources and ongoing enrichment activities. Students who lose reading ability over the summer in their formative years rarely catch up: 75 percent of students who are poor readers in third grade remain poor readers in high school.
"With nearly half the adult population currently reading at or below the basic level, our country is truly in the middle of a literacy crisis," said Carol H. Rasco, President and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental. "This is not a problem we can wait to solve or afford not to act on. If the United States is to be a competitive player in the global marketplace, we must ensure that all children have access to essential literacy tools."
Today, Reading Is Fundamental, the largest children's literacy nonprofit in the nation, released the results of a two-year research study, Read for Success: Combating the Summer Learning Slide in America, which tested a new model for reducing summer learning loss.
According to experts in children's literacy, access to good, high-quality books, book ownership, and a child's choice in book selection are critical for successful reading achievement. However, of the 16 million children living in poverty in the U.S., two-thirds do not have books in their homes.
Implemented in 16 states across 173 schools with more than 33,000 students from the second, third and fourth grades participating, Read for Success increased access to books and enrichment opportunities in low-income and rural communities.
In the study, students across the board showed important gains in reading proficiency, which also had a positive impact on other areas of their studies.
- On average, 57 percent of those students tested showed statistically significant improvements in reading proficiency from spring to fall each year, instead of 80 percent of children showing loss in reading proficiency (the current findings).
- Nearly half of all third grade students—a critical grade for literacy skills—increased reading proficiency.
- Students performing below the 10th percentile in each grade—often categorized as those children having special needs—showed the greatest increase in reading proficiency.
"We take for granted that all children have access to books and the same opportunity to succeed in school but that's simply not true," said Judy Cheatham, Ph.D., Vice President of Literacy Services at Reading Is Fundamental. "The Read for Success study shows that there are evidence-based, cost-effective solutions for getting books into kids' hands and boosting reading achievement."
The Read for Success model was comprised of six key components:
- Book ownership for students;
- Books for the classroom;
- Professional development for teachers;
- Literacy resources;
- Science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) enrichment activities;
- Parental engagement.
In total, more than 760,000 books, with an emphasis on STEAM themes (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), were distributed to children to keep and to classrooms and media centers.
"It was great to see firsthand how excited the students were when they picked out books based on their own interests that they could have to take home," said Fanchon Muhammad, Ph.D., Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Bessemer City Schools in Bessemer, Alabama, whose students participated in the Read for Success study. "The excitement made the program a real game changer for our children, which translated into marked results in reading achievement when they returned to the classroom in the fall."
"In the summer months, all children are at risk of losing some of the learning and skills they've acquired over the school year," said Karl Alexander, Ph.D., Academy Professor and Research Professor of Sociology at the Johns Hopkins University and co-author of the study Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap. "This is especially true for children from economically disadvantaged communities. If the summer learning slide is not addressed at an early age, these children fall behind by up to three years in reading comprehension by the end of fifth grade, with the potential to widen to four years by the end of twelfth grade if left unattended. Sustained reading of age appropriate, engaging literature is a key component of the solution."
More About the Read for Success Study
The Read for Success research study was implemented in 41 school districts in the following states: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Reading Is Fundamental set out, as part of the Read for Success model, to cut in half summer learning loss in reading proficiency. With testing occurring each spring and fall over a two-year period, the study used the reading section of the nationally-normed Iowa Test of Basic Skills to measure growth. In addition to the top findings above, the study found that:
- Even students with strong literacy skills (at or above the 90th percentile) increased their reading proficiency.
- Schools with the greatest improvements incorporated a full culture change and had strong parental involvement.
About Reading Is Fundamental® (RIF)
Reading Is Fundamental delivers free books and literacy resources to children and families in economically disadvantaged communities in the United States. By giving children the opportunity to own a book, RIF inspires them to become lifelong readers and achieve their full potential. As the nation's largest children's literacy nonprofit, RIF has placed 412 million books in the hands of more than 40 million children since it was established in 1966. To learn more and help provide books to kids who need them most, visit RIF.org.
SOURCE Reading Is Fundamental