20 Minutes of Summer Reading a Day Keeps the Summer Brain Cobwebs Away
Throughout the school year, elementary school students strive to abide by the 20 minutes a day reading rule that teachers often assign as homework on a weekly basis. Now that summer is in full swing, many children either have unstructured daily activities or, on the flip side, have a structured routine consisting of more play-centered activities. Although many children put away their school textbooks and writing composition notebooks during the summer, the habit of reading daily should not end when the school year comes to a close.
The value of reading frequently and widely affects not just one’s reading ability but also one’s vocabulary knowledge. Two researchers, Nagy and Herman (1987), noted that students acquire the majority of their vocabulary not simply through explicit vocabulary instruction in school but through incidental reading. Therefore, students benefit greatly from consistently reading at least 20 minutes a day throughout the calendar year as opposed to taking several months off during the summer. The number of vocabulary words students are exposed to vastly differs when compared to those who read infrequently. For example, if Student A reads 20 minutes a day from kindergarten through sixth grade, she would acquire approximately 1,800,000 words by the sixth grade. If Student B reads 5 minutes a day from kindergarten through sixth grade, he would acquire roughly 282,000 words by the sixth grade. Student A would rank in the 90th percentile whereas Student B would be in the 50th percentile regarding vocabulary knowledge (Nagy and Herman, 1987).
Additionally, providing students a strong foundation at the start of their academic career makes a positive impact on their reading ability and vocabulary knowledge. Hargrave and Senechal (2000) conducted a study with preschool children and found that not only was book reading with young students beneficial for their vocabulary acquisition, but students who were actively engaged during the reading (called dialogic-reading intervention) demonstrated greater gains in their vocabulary knowledge.
Therefore, some of the key elements students at any age need to keep in mind are:
Read 20 minutes a day throughout the year
Ask questions and be actively engaged while reading
Clarify the meaning of any unknown words in the book or passage
How can our Eye Level English students apply these strategies to their weekly workload of homework? Students have numerous resources with which they can begin their daily reading:
Recommended Reading List– Whether your student is in Level Pre-A or Level H, select books from the Recommended Reading List either for the parent to read to the child or for the child to read independently.
Comprehension Section – In each reading booklet, there are at least four pages of reading comprehension for the students. If the student is in Level E or above, have the student read the passages independently and encourage them to read each page aloud. For students in Level D or below, encourage them to read the first 10 pages independently out loud, and either read the comprehension passages to the students or read the content together.
Alphabet and Phonics Readers – In addition, assign the appropriate Alphabet and Phonics Readers to the students so that they can continue with their daily reading.
Reading Log and Journal – Students can also read from their school Summer Reading Lists. Have students keep a log of their books and write out simple journal entries for each book read not only to recall important facts from the stories but also to improve their writing.
When students come across any unfamiliar words, have them write the words into their Key & Note with a definition and a sample sentence. Keep the reading time fun, engaging, and, most of all, consistent. Help prevent the brain cobwebs from forming before September!
Hargrave, A. C., & Sénéchal, M. (2000). A book reading intervention with preschool children who have limited vocabularies: The benefits of regular reading and dialogic reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(1), 75-90.
Nagy, W. E., & Herman, P. A. (1987). Breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge:
Implications for acquisition and instruction. The nature of vocabulary acquisition, 19, 35.