Technology Boosts Summer Reading, Improves Literacy Skills
January 28, 2014
Surveys have shown that many students report that they would read more books for fun if they had access to reading material on an electronic device. Last year, Perquimans County Schools (PCS) put this research to the test and their experiment paid off in a big way.
With 63 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, Perquimans Central serves many families who are unable to provide their children access to books or technology over the summer. This is particularly troubling since research has shown that by the end of fifth grade, children who go home to an environment where there are very few books or other reading resources are approximately 2 ½ years behind their peers in terms of reading ability, primarily because of summer loss.
To address this issue, PCS used a mix of Race to the Top, Title I and technology dollars to purchase 160 Nooks and offered all rising second graders at Perquimans Central the opportunity to borrow one of the devices over the summer. Each Nook was loaded with 20 to 40 books. The only requirements were that parents had to participate in an orientation and training, agree to the acceptable use policy and put down $10 for the insurance fee.
Out of 156 rising second graders, 82 participated in the program. As a group, these students had lower literacy test scores at the beginning of first grade than the group of students who did not participate in the program. One summer and many finished Nook books later, the group of students who borrowed the devices outperformed those that did not on literacy tests given at the start of the second grade. On top of that, students in the Summer Nook Program had a lower rate of summer reading loss than non-participants, and 34 percent of these students who borrowed Nooks even reflected growth during their time away from school.
During my recent visit to Perquimans County, I heard more about this great program and I met Blair Russell. Blair a second grader at Perquimans Central and she used three different Nooks provided by PCS to read 278 books over the summer. She recently told local school board members and county commissioners that was more fun reading on the Nook because she could have a lot of books to choose from in one place. She shared that she took her Nook with her in the car, at her sister's ball games, and everywhere she went during summer vacation. She also told commissioners and board members that she hoped that she would get her very own Nook for her birthday, and three days later, her wish came true at her 7th birthday party. Now that is a 7-year-old with a true love of reading!
We all know that reading is a critical skill that students must master in order to be successful in school and beyond. Students who do not read over the summer lose some of these literacy skills. This loss is unnecessary and preventable. That is why I launched “Give Five – Read Five” (www.ncpublicschools.org/give5read5/) last spring to collect new and used books for elementary school students to take home at the end of the school year. We collected more than 123,000 books and hope to bring in even more this year.
I applaud Perquimans County Schools for thinking creatively and doing its part to keep books and Nooks in the hands of their students all summer long. Thanks to their Summer Nook Program, more students entered the second grade this year ready to learn, read and succeed.
June St. Clair Atkinson