Book Review: No More Summer-Reading Loss by Carrie Cahill, Kathy Horvath, Anne McGill-Franzen, and Richard Allington (Heinemann, 2013)

imgresAt only 65 pages, I was surprised at how rich this book was in research and strategies for stemming summer reading loss. Cahill and Horvath start this text by asserting that “the lack of summer reading is actually a reflection of how well we have taught them to be independent readers during the school year” (4). They follow up this provocative statement with why it is just not conducive to try requiring dormant readers to engage in literature without considering their interests. Motivation is the key.

McGill-Franzen and Allington share the research on motivation and engagement in the next chapter. They frequently highlight the power of having choice and access to high-interest books, both during the school year and over the summer. Maybe the most surprising fact to me was, when schools just give kids free books of their choice over summer, the effect is just as powerful as most summer school programs (and at a fraction of the cost).

Cahill and Horvath round out the text with some practical and economic ideas for facilitating summer reading projects. The use of online tools, such as blogs and literacy-focused websites, were especially intriguing to me. While it is only January as I write this, I thought it is well worth my time to have read this text now and prepare for the reading possibilities in the future.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

12 thoughts on “Book Review: No More Summer-Reading Loss by Carrie Cahill, Kathy Horvath, Anne McGill-Franzen, and Richard Allington (Heinemann, 2013)”

  1. Thanks for sharing this review, Matt. It sounds interesting. We want our students to continue reading over the holidays for their reading ability to be maintained. Setting reading, though, can be counter-productive. Motivation, choice and interests will definitely play an important part in establishing independent and lifelong reading habits. It can sometimes be difficult to know how best to establish that.

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    1. Hi Norah, thanks for commenting. We are trying to figure that out ourselves. What has worked for you, or what have you tried?

      One approach is bringing literacy intervention for older students into the classroom. For example, in our school we are going to facilitate a book club during our intervention block for 4th/5th grade students. I am sure I will write more about this, so stay tuned!

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      1. The book club sounds like a great idea. I think choice is a very important ingredient. Michael Rosen talks about giving children the opportunity to browse – browse in a library, in a bookstore, on a bookshelf – and to select what is of interest regardless of the measured ‘reading level’. He says that interest, and I tend to agree, is the greatest motivator. I always give books as gifts and, while I believe in choice and self-selection, I had not before considered the importance of browsing in quite this way. Too often we are ready to jump in and steer students in directions that we think are appropriate for them.

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      2. Very true Norah. It happens more frequently as the kids go up through the grades. Choice gets thrown out the window in favor of rigor and the classics. I have nothing against the classics – I think every kid should read 1984 before they leave high school – but students at every age still need to be able to choose what they want to read and have time to read it.

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      3. Definitely! It is as the kids go up through the grades (get older) that they need to be developing more independent skills. Self-selection is one of those. If they are not shown how, or given time and opportunity, to find books that are of interest to them at school, it is unlikely that they will be able to develop effective habits as lifelong readers.

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  2. Thanks for highlighting this book and this topic. The summer-loss research helps us to focus and be more strategic. The surprising findings that children choosing books to receive was a comparable effect to that of a summer intervention is promising news. We all need to be book-pushers! 😉

    The strategic importance of self-selected books in homes reminds me of the similarly strategic importance of time spent reading in school. However, a recent study replicates former research from the 80’s that shows that many kids get only about 1 minute of connected text reading time per day. Yikes! http://ldq.sagepub.com/content/37/3/148.short

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  3. Hi, Matt. I was so happy to see this review on your blog because of several reasons, one of which is that Carrie Cahill is my Assistant Superintendent. We will begin talking to our teachers soon about summer reading and how we can work to prevent summer reading loss. I am anticipating a lot of work around this topic in May in our district, and I’ll keep you posted on any new ideas!

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    1. How lucky you are to have Carrie as an administrator in your school district. I look forward to hearing about the innovations you all come up with, Dana.

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