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Experts Say Summer Reading Helps Students Maintain Academic Skills

Summer vacation is well underway for students in central Ohio, but many find themselves with reading assignments to complete before school begins in the fall.

Educators and others are stepping up efforts to reduce a loss of skills during the summer months. That loss can set students back by as much as six months.

20 to 40% of the school population are not proficient readers, says JoAnn Donohue, assistant director of the Ohio State State University Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic. She says reading difficulties can begin to cause serious problems as early as third grade.

Kindergarten through second grade, we learn to read. [From the] third grade on, we read to learn, says Donohue.

During the summer months, the OSU Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic offers assistance for students who struggle with reading. This summer's program is full, but Donohue says another program begins in the fall.

Burwick Alternative Elementary School Principal Leanne Katterheinrich says Berwick was a pilot school in the Columbus district for LACES, "Language Across Columbus Elementary Schools," a program that checks the reading levels of student when they enter the school and four times during the school year.

Katterheinrich put the numbers on a graph that resembles the side of a mountain with ledges or dips every nine months. Those dips represent the backsliding that happens during the summer.

What we found over four years is when they come back, they drop almost a half year back, almost two marking periods back, over the summer, says Katterheinrich.

Katterheinrich says she would like to have all students attend summer school to keep them in what she calls the school mode.

In lieu of summer classes, the school is requiring students to read during the summer and offering rewards for doing so. Last summer, students were required to read one book. This summer, they read one required book and choose two others and work through an activity packet.

And Katterheinrich will add to her graph the results of testing through the 2007-2008 academic year to see if this summer's increase in reading helped to stem the loss of skills over the months students are out of school.