The Impact of Summer Library Reading Programs

July 21st, 2010 by Richard.James

Every summer, Delaware’s public libraries welcome schoolchildren to an exciting and educational series of activities, programs, and performances designed to bridge the gap between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. Summer Library Reading Programs are very common across the US- in fact, this type of program has existed for more than a century in one form or another- and attempt to combat what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has described as the “devastating impact” of summer slide, in which the average student loses the equivalent of almost a month of instruction during the summer break from structured educational activities, with disadvantaged students disproportionately affected (click here for more details.)

Dominican University received a research grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and partnered with the Colorado and Texas State Libraries on a three-year, evidence-based investigation into the impact of summer reading programs on student acheivment. You can read the executive summary below, but to summarize the summary, the researchers found that participation in these programs increased children’s scores on standardized reading tests and that their teachers reported increased confidence and participation in classroom activities overall on their return to school.

The full report is available at this link: The Dominican Study: Public Library Summer Reading Programs Close the Reading Gap.

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13 Responses to “The Impact of Summer Library Reading Programs”

  1. Chris says:

    look for

  2. brandstone says:

    A couple of things – the study found that students who didn’t participate in the summer reading program still improved their reading scores (although not as much as summer readers). It also found that students who participated in the summer reading program were at a higher socio-economic level and had more books already in the home than those who did not. I hate to say it but this study actually makes summer reading programs look bad. We are supposed to be targeting children from low socioeconomic levels and ones who do not have books at home, this study says we are not accomplishing that. Just saying…

  3. richard says:

    Brandstone- I don’t agree that the study makes the programs look bad. The recommendations of the project are almost all specifically about enlarging the scope of SRPs to encompass other socio-economic groups in order that the proven advantages of participation are more equitably distributed

  4. Cadi says:

    The reports appears to be saying that we, as educators, are on the right track but we still need to do a lot of work, especially if we have been doing this, as a group for a century. Are we simply preaching to the choir with our ready readers continuing through the summer?
    In the community in which I work there are children and teens who really need to continue working on their reading skills over the summer. But I fear that the real numbers of the children and teens completing the books they list may be much less. We need to involve more parents, maybe we need to include a few generic questions that parents can go over we their children about the books they have read.
    As educators we can lead by example and offer materials, we can’t be in the homes with the children.

  5. Kids Lit » Blog Archive » Impact of Summer Reading says:

    [...] out the full report here.  I salute each and every children’s librarian out there who has such an important role in [...]

  6. Ypulse Essentials: Comic-Con 2010, Disney To Acquire Playdom, GLAAD Honors MTV | Ypulse says:

    [...] New research on the impact of summer reading (More library love in this report on the positive impact of summer reading programs on student test [...]

  7. Charles M. Bailey Public Library » Director’s Blog >> » Yours to explore… says:

    [...] A few good links/news stories: Public Libraries Nourishing the Mind by PCWORLD Best Book Recommendation Service? by Lifehacker Librarian Discovered How To Hypnotize Lobsters The Impact of Summer Library Reading Programs [...]

  8. The Impact of Summer Library Reading Programs article | Three Muses Press says:

    [...] is a link to an interesting article by Delaware’s public library system. It discusses the “summer slide” students fall [...]

  9. Susan Mark says:

    I believe summer reading is a fantastic thing, so I had high hopes when I heard about this study. After having read it, it seems inconclusive.

    Summer reading participants raise their test scores more than non-participants. However, these kids are also more likely to be female, higher income, more books in the homes – in other words, the groups we would expect to be reading more and making more gains in reading anyway. I did not see in the report where any of those factors were accounted for.

    I question, too, the relevance of asking school librarians and librarians if they think summer reading makes a difference. Of course they do.

    I do not believe, as the one poster said, that this makes summer reading look bad. I think it just doesn’t prove anything one way or another on summer reading.

    I don’t want to know if summer reading kids do better because they’re already more advantaged – I want to know if you took ten kids with the same levels of parental education, income, books in the home, etc. and put five through summer reading and the other five not, whether it would make a difference. We believe that summer reading is a positive good. What we still don’t have is solid evidence that it produces the outcomes we think it does.

  10. Summer Reading Isn’t for the Birds says:

    [...] books…” But no matter how much students may moan and groan about summer reading must-dos, now new research shows the positive impact of summer reading [...]

  11. Experience Keeps a Dear School | Lib(rary) Performance says:

    [...] of course, led to gross misinterpretations of the actual findings as, for example, in a post by the Delaware Division of Libraries: “The researchers found that participation in these programs increased children’s scores on [...]

  12. Ray Lyons says:

    It took me a while to get to reading this study. So I offer my observations, if anyone is interested:

    I see that some aspects of this study are being misinterpreted or misreported. E.g. A comment above says that summer program non-participants “improved their reading scores (although not as much as summer readers).” In fact, improvement in the average score of non-participants was 3 times the average improvement for summer reading participants.

    What the researchers reported was something different–that non-participants didn’t reach the level of scores that participants did. The summer readers were superior readers to begin with, and non-participants couldn’t catch up. But this does not mean the high scores of participants were due to the summer programs.

    Also, the above statementdated July 21 is wrong: “The researchers found that participation in these programs increased children’s scores on standardized reading tests.”

    The researchers reported this finding: “Students who participated in the public library summer reading program scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those students who did not participate…” p. 1

    But they never claimed these increases were caused by summer reading programs. Rather, they said: “While not definitive in addressing the additive effect of summer library reading programs, this study has been helpful in demonstrating the need for more rigorously controlled research studies.” P. 44

    For a more detailed explanation, see:

    http://libperform.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/experience-keeps-a-dear-school/

    Ray Lyons
    Cleveland, OH

  13. Igor_Nekrasow says:

    I hate to say it but this study actually makes summer reading programs look bad. We are supposed to be targeting children from low socioeconomic levels and ones who do not have books at home, this study says we are not accomplishing that. Just saying…