Reading & Literacy

Students Increasingly Are Not Reading Over the Summer, Poll Finds

By Sasha Jones — May 08, 2019 3 min read
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As students approach summer vacation, they have a confession to make: While 77 percent agree that summer reading will help them, 20 percent report not reading any books at all over the summer.

The finding is part of Scholastic’s biennial nationally representative survey of children ages 17 and under and their parents. The survey was managed by YouGov, a data analytics firm, and was conducted from September to October of last year.

Among the 2,758 students surveyed, the percentage who reported not reading over the summer has increased sharply since Scholastic’s last survey in 2016. Thirty-two percent of kids ages 15-17 said they read no books over the summer, compared to 22 percent in 2016. The number of 9-to-11-year-olds who do not read doubled, increasing from 7 percent to 14 percent.

“There are more things that are out there right now competing for the time of the reader,” Deimosa Webber-Bey, Scholastic’s senior librarian and manager, said.

The average number of books read also decreases as students get older. Students in the 6-to-8 age group read an average of 19 books over the summer. Among 15-17-year-olds, however, students said they read only read two on average.

The report also found that while 95 percent of parents agreed that reading over the summer can help their child during the school year, 47 percent—nearly half—were unaware of the “summer slide,” the term that refers to students losing learning over the summer.

Parents of frequent readers, those who read for fun five to seven days a week, were more aware of the summer slide, with 62 percent expressing familiarity with the concept, compared to 47 percent of parents with infrequent readers. Higher-income parents also were also more aware, with 64 percent of those who earn $100,000 or more having knowledge of the idea, compared to 37 percent of those who earn less than $35,000.

Parents aware of the summer slide additionally made more efforts to encourage summer reading. For example, 62 percent of those who were were aware of summer learning loss took their children to the library, compared to 44 percent who were not. Also, of those familiar with the terms, 46 percent put limits on their children’s usage of screen time, compared to 34 percent of those who had not heard of summer slide.

Scholastic also believes that children’s access to books plays a large role in whether students read over the summer. Fifty-three percent of children ages 6-17 said that they checked out books from a school-based source, such as a school library or classroom. The second largest source was the public library, with 50 percent of students saying they found books to read for fun there.

Parents similarly show strong support for school libraries with 95 percent agreeing that every community should have a public library and that every child needs to have access to a school library.

“When a school is out of session during the summer months ... the access to books can kind of disappear,” Webber-Bey said. “It depends on the kid’s ability to get to the public library or the book store.”

Out-of-school activities can also contribute to unequal learning and learning loss, the report says. A National Center for Education Statistics study of the kindergarten class of 2010-11 similarly found that students from higher-income families have more access to summer activities and child care than lower-income students. Such discrepancies in access to simulating activities can result in increased loss of learning for low-income students.

Scholastic’s report, which also includes studies on reading role models, diversity in books, and the impacts of reading aloud, corresponds with Read-a-Palooza, its summer reading campaign in partnership with United Way.

“It’s not just about that personal satisfaction ... but also that you’re giving it to someone else,” Webber-Bey said. “You’re sharing that experience and that’s [a] kind of gift.”

Images courtesy of Scholastic

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.