Johns Hopkins University researcher, Karl Alexander, recently found that two- thirds of the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers occurs during the summers of elementary schools.
The author states, "most disturbing is that the summer learning loss is cumulative; over time, the difference between the summer learning rates of low income and higher-income students contributes substantially to their achievement."
While it is easy to jump to the assumption that summer camps and structured enrichment programs available to the middle class are the critical missing pieces for the poor, research indicates that summer school has not always been the best tool in helping disadvantaged young people catch up…or close the gap.
Ironically, the most effective strategies have included giving young people the opportunity to read things that they enjoy. While many do not have access to libraries…or even know where to find them, the truly advantaged are those who have books.
Book "giveaways" have been very successful in some inner cities. In an age where a DVD or computer video serve as inexpensive child care programs, our focus should be more on the most common of educational tools…a book.
People, young and old, usually read for two purposes: they need information, or it is fun. This summer, before you sign up for another camp, go to the library and check out a dozen books that your son or daughter would like to read. Let them pick the topics…and give them time to talk about what they have learned. It is amazing how much they can learn when we listen!