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As a teacher and mom, summer offers more opportunities to hang out with my daughters and grandkids, take some road trips, and whittle down my overflowing piles of books to read.
Access to books and the ability to choose what you want to read are the two factors consistently linked to both reading achievement and the development of intrinsic reading motivation.
Required summer reading presumes that all children have access to the books, computers, the Internet, or school supplies necessary to read and complete assignments, which puts our neediest children at a disadvantage from the start.
As a parent, I can tell you my daughters and granddaughters haven’t always shared my enthusiasm for summer reading because of onerous reading assignments, summer reading programs, and required reading lists sent home by their schools just before summer vacation begins.
These assignments, lists, contests, and incentives stem from a valid concern: many children do not read enough over the summer.
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Children who choose their own books over the summer read more and report greater reading motivation and engagement after summer ends (Allington & Mc Gill-Franzen, 2012).
When schools require students to read specific books and complete reading assignments during summer break, we communicate that reading for school matters more than young readers’ personal reading interests and reading identity development.
No matter the academic gains children make during the school year, if they do not read much over the summer, their learning often stalls or regresses.
On the surface, summer reading assignments and programs appear to address this concern—ensuring that all children will read at least a few books over the summer and head off potential learning loss. Assigning books for summer reading can’t guarantee that reading takes place, and could have a negative effect on young readers’ long-term reading interest and motivation.