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Friday, May 25, 2018

The Reading Gap

By Jan Pease

 I’ve been telling students about an experience we had at the Minnesota Zoo one summer a few years ago.  We were sitting in the tiger house when suddenly a huge, male Amur tiger came in to view.  I felt that one minute I was looking at the brush, and then this huge beast came out of nowhere.  It was  amazing, to say the least. There really was no tiger in sight, and suddenly there was a TIGER! I was so glad to have thick glass between us.

I feel that way about the school year.  It seems to be winter, winter, winter, spring and SUDDENLY! It’s summer!

With the school year finishing so soon, I need to remind parents and grandparents about a   problem   called “summer slide.”   Our summer reading program, iREAD, from the Illinois Library Association, states on its website that “Young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.  Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Libraries are part of the solution.”  

One statistic that I’ve found on the educational site,, an educational site based in Canada, is that students lose an average of two months of their reading achievement over the summer break.  Students may lose as much as 2.6 months of math achievement over the summer. 

The problem expands as students go farther in school.  The video website  has several significant videos about the education gap.  To watch them, go to and search for the NBC News video  with Brian Williams called “Summer Learning.” There is also a really good video called “ the  6,000 hour Learning Gap.”  Each of these present an easy-to-understand look at a national problem.

I suggested to a group of third-grade students that the answer to this problem might be having year round school.  They gave a resounding NO!  They do like that long summer break.  As we move farther and farther away from being a rural, agriculture – based community, year round school with significant breaks of, say, 4 weeks might be an option.  

It isn’t all just work.  Summer reading time lets students have the chance to choose what they want to read.  Reading for fun, not just reading enough to get by, is part of what produces a fluent reader. 

There was once a girl in Iowa who liked to daydream away her school days.  She remembers going to school in the fall, having forgotten how to hold her pencil.  Sad story, but true.  Don’t let your children be that little girl (although she turned out ok!)

See you at the library!