Without school support, many of our students stop reading. It is as if we are taking two steps forward during the school year and one step backward during the summer.
Carrie Cahill, Kathy Horvath, Anne McGill-Franzen, and Richard Allington in No More Summer Reading Loss
This is a chart of Tyler’s reading growth over three years, from the time he entered first grade through the start of fourth grade.
Each school year Tyler makes progress as a reader, and each summer he slides backward. So how can we help Tyler and students like him increase the amount they read over the summer? We think sharing data displays with families and students can be a powerful tool for affecting the summer reading slide.
Sharing Data Displays with Families
Toward the end of the school year, we schedule one additional parent/teacher conference for any student who has received reading support during the school year. The goal of this meeting is to talk about progress to date and to discuss summer reading. To prepare for this meeting, we create displays such as the one above. If the student has been in the school for a few years, we use the student’s data. If the student is new to the school, we share “data display prototypes.” Data display prototypes are simply graphs and charts that do not include any student names or dates. It is anonymous data that highlights the summer regression problem without compromising confidentiality.
As we look at the data displays with parents or caregivers, many remark, “I didn’t realize that reading in the summer was this important. I didn’t think it made this big a difference.” The graphs highlight the patterns, and the effect on summer reading becomes apparent.
Yet data displays do more than illuminate the importance of summer reading. They also open up conversations about what makes summer reading difficult. We listen and learn as parents/caregivers share why summer reading is challenging. They tell us about busy schedules, difficulty finding books, and motivation issues. These conversations help us understand why summer reading is challenging. Once we know the problem, we can sometimes help the student and family find ways to make reading more enjoyable.
Sharing Data with Students
Family members aren’t the only ones who benefit from studying data displays about summer regression. When our students look at these graphs about summer regression, they learn too. We begin these discussions by first asking students to work in partnerships to analyze data display prototypes. We find that beginning this way helps students interpret the results without worrying about their own progress.
Next we meet with individual students and take a look at their data displays. Once students see their patterns of growth and regression, they become more engaged in discussing summer reading. Again, students begin to talk about their reading life at home, and these conversations help us find ways to make reading at home a bit easier.
Of course, sharing data displays hasn’t made summer reading a reality for all students. But this process has helped us highlight the importance of summer reading, and it has opened up conversations with families, students, and teachers.