Importance of Reading Over School Breaks

For struggling and advanced students alike, I recommend making reading a priority over breaks from school- especially over spring, winter, and summer vacation. Research demonstrates a concept commonly referred to as the “summer slide” when students regress approximately 1 month in grade level due to falling out of practice with reading and math.


In one study accessible here researchers from John Hopkins University looked at the long-term educational consequences of summer learning differences by family socio-economic level. These researchers found that the achievement gap between high-low socioeconomic statuses is mainly traced to differential summer learning over the elementary school years. The consequence of this achievement gap substantially accounts for major differences in high school completion and four year college attendance.


To defeat the summer slide and even get ahead over break, I recommend setting aside structured time daily to devote to reading and math activities. Research has suggested that children who read as few as six books over the summer break can maintain their reading skills at a level achieved in the preceding school year.


When creating summer work plans, I begin with a standardized test of academic achievement. Reading recommendations are customized to the interests and grade level of the student. You can also find recommended reading lists on websites for public school districts, private schools, or at your local public library. Your local librarian can also help in identifying books level appropriate and interesting to your child.


Some general recommendations for the younger grade levels are posted below:


1st and 2nd Grade: Red Fish Blue Fish, Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, and Green Eggs and Ham.  Dr. Seuss book are perfect for emergent readers.  These books combine an exacting blend of words and pictures that encourage children to read by applying phonemes and blends to multiple words across 1 to 2 pages at a time.  I also recommend the Scholastic Word Family Readers series (there are 80 books in total which can be purchased as a set) which help kids become better readers, writers, and spellers.  Each book reinforces a different word family including "am," "ell," "ad" and "ot" which is done through an entertaining story and subsequent activities.


3rd Grade: Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater.  By the time children are in the 3rd grade to be on-level their reading rate is around 115 words-per-minute.  As their reading fluency improves, third graders need to be matched with books on topics they are interested in.  Animals and adventure are two topics popular in this grade level.  Mr. Popper's Penguins is a funny story about a housepainter who unexpectedly comes into possession of 10 baby penguins.


4th Grade: 4th Graders tend to enjoy books about adventure and independence, and also reading about other 4th graders.  Popular books for 4th graders include: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


5th and 6th Grade:  My recommendation for 5th grade and up is to match the reader to a series in which they are interested.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is a very popular series for both boys and girls.  For boys, the “Jack Stalwart” series is always a hit, and there is a learning website that accompanies the book series.


The first book is at grade 5 level and is titled: Secret Agent Jack Stalwart Book 1: The Escape of the Deadly Dinosaur by Elizabeth Singer Hunt.


For girls grades 5-7 I recommend the Ella Enchanted book series by Gail Carson Levine.  This series is sort of a re-telling of Cinderella through a young girl named, “Ella” and her struggle to overcome her wicked step-sisters.  The Secret Garden and Little Women are also classics that 6th grade girls would enjoy.


Finally, the American Girl series is a great way for 5th and 6th grade girls to learn about other young girls in America from different time periods of from other parts of the country and for them to compare and contrast their experiences with characters in the book.


If you would like to put together a summer reading list for your child please don’t hesitate to contact me. I hope to hear from you soon!