Why the NCLB Summer Reading Imperative Is Wrong-Headed
This letter is in response to the NCLB's new summer reading initiative, which is being piloted in South Dakota. You can find the press release from NCLB at http://susanohanian.org/show_nclb_news.html?id=353
Sent to the Rapid City Journal, April 9
South Dakota needs to take a closer look at the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Summer Reading Achievers program ("Reading initiative aims to stanch summer brain drain," April 9). Here are the details of the program: Encourage reading by requiring children to read ten books over the summer, only allow "age-appropriate books," require book reports, and give prizes to those who complete the assignment.
None of this is supported by the research. In fact, requiring reading, restricting choice in reading, requiring book reports and giving out rewards for reading are fine ways to extinguish interest in reading. When we reward an activity that is already pleasant, we send the message that it is not pleasant, that nobody would do it without a bribe.
NCLB shows no special interest in doing what is firmly supported by research: Make sure books are available by improving public and school library services during the summer, and make sure the real experts are available, those who know children's reading interests and children's literature: librarians.
It is ironic that those in charge of organizing reading programs have not read the research on how to encourage reading.
Reading initiative aims to stanch summer brain drain
By Andrea J. Cook
RAPID CITY -- Gov. Mike Rounds promised students at North Middle School he would buy ice cream if they read this summer. Rounds was at North on Thursday afternoon to announce South Dakota's participation in the federal Department of Education's No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Achievers program.
Rounds said joining the program is an opportunity for South Dakota he readily accepted when President Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige asked him to participate.
"No Child Left Behind means in South Dakota that we care about every single child," Rounds said.
"We all know that during the summertime break, youngsters forget a little bit of what they learned in school," he said.
North principal Jeanne Burckhard said students often return to school in the fall with poorer reading skills than they left with in the spring.
"We really spend probably the first four or five weeks getting them back," she said.
Rounds challenged all students at North and fifth-graders from General Beadle Elementary School, who attended the meeting at North, to read 10 books they like this summer. The fifth-graders will be sixth-graders at the middle school next year.
If the students meet the goal, Rounds will throw North an ice cream party in September. Burckhard invited the school's current eighth-graders, who will be high school freshmen in the fall, to return for the party.
South Dakota's secretary of education, Rick Melmer, told students he, too, would be back for ice cream.
Melmer accompanied Rounds and Laurie Rich, assistant secretary of the U.S. Education Department's Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs, to announce the reading program.
Rich said Thursday's announcement was the first official kickoff for the summer reading program.
The results of this summer's reading experiment in South Dakota will be used to expand the program across the nation next year, she said.
"We hope to learn some things about the best way to encourage kids to read during the summer," Rich said.
Rounds said that the state will look for corporate and business sponsors to provide reading incentives for children.
South Dakota's positive response to and support of the federal No Child Left Behind education act is one reason the state was selected for the pilot, Melmer said.
The support businesses in the state give to education also made South Dakota a good place for a pilot program, Rounds said.
Melmer said he wants to involve as many school districts in the state as possible in the Summer Reading Achievers program. School districts and public libraries must work together to make the program successful, he said.
"It's not our intention to compete with public libraries but to work in conjunction with them," he said.
Rounds said the state will absorb administrative costs associated with the program.
The Summer Reading Achievers program was piloted last year in Atlanta. The program is an incentive program to increase summer reading by children in grades K-8 and reduce the lapse in reading skills most children experience over the summer.
South Dakota is the only state selected for the expanded pilot this summer.
Ten urban cities will participate in the study. They include Springfield, Mass.; Portsmouth, N.H.; Pittsburgh; Camden, N.J.; Atlanta; Gainesville, Fla.; Kansas City, Kan.; Minneapolis; Albuquerque, N.M.; and San Diego.
"This is absolutely wonderful for our district," Margie Rosario, president of the Rapid City School Board, said.
Rosario said the summer reading program fits well with the school district's emphasis on improving each child's reading skills. That initiative began 10 years ago.
"This is just keeping right in line with all that progress," she said.
Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea J. Cook
Rapid City Journal
Reading initiative aims to stanch summer brain drain