A number of New Zealand and overseas studies into students’ reading loss over the long summer break have shown the loss can be significant.
Impact on student academic achievement
Weeks, if not a term or more, are spent helping students catch up to their reading levels from the previous year. In one New Zealand study, some students in a South Auckland decile 1 school lost 5.8 months reading progress over the summer holidays (McNaughton et al, 2012).
The consequences are cumulative and long-lasting, often having a powerful influence on reading scores throughout secondary school and beyond. A Baltimore study showed 65% of the reading achievement gap between 9th graders of low and high socio-economic standing could be traced to what they learned — or failed to learn — over their childhood summers (Kim & Quinn, 2013).
The summer slide in reading levels can also be seen in other curriculum areas, such as mathematics, and on levels of confidence generally.
It's harder to close the gap once it has opened, especially for struggling readers, so the earlier the intervention the better.
National Summer Learning Association
This Horizons National video with NBC's Brian Williams illustrates the impact of the summer slide and, although based on US research, is relevant to New Zealand:
Summer learning loss (YouTube, 2min11)
Characteristics of students
Often it's students who can least afford to lose their year’s reading gains that fall the furthest behind, such as struggling readers who lose momentum, reading habits and confidence. For example:
- students and families who have participated in the Reading Together® programme or been through Reading Recovery
- students in priority learner groups identified by the Education Review Office (August 2012) as ”historically not experiencing success in the New Zealand schooling system" – low decile, Māori, Pasifika, and ESOL students, and students with specific learning needs.
Low-income children fall further behind than their classmates. Studies in the United States have found that middle-income students tend to lose one month of reading achievement, while lower income students generally lose about 2 months of reading achievement.
The loss is less pronounced or absent in students who have access to books and holiday learning experiences such as travel, museum visits, or other similar experiences.
Reading Together programme