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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Summer project No. 1: the reading list"
ALBANY, June 22-- There are plenty of ways to help children welcome and look forward to summer, but here’s one that can cover a lot of important bases: make a reading list.
Numerous studies over decades of prominent research drive home the point that children who engage in summer reading make greater academic gains than children who do not. It’s as simple as that. In fact, many of the research findings on the so-called “summer slide” jump off the page.
> students can lose up to 25 percent of their reading level over the summer;
> a conservative estimate for lost instructional time (for children who don’t read during the summer) is approximately two months or roughly 22% of the school year; and
> by the end of the sixth grade, children who lose reading skills during the summer are, on average, two years behind their peers.
According to “Making Summer Count,” a 2011 report from the RAND Corporation on the importance of summer reading and other learning programs, “Rigorous studies of voluntary summer programs, mandatory summer programs, and programs that encourage students to read at home in the summer have all found positive effects on student achievement.”
All of these numbers and statistics help tell the larger story, of course, but sometimes the words themselves are the most powerful testimony on the importance – and the joys – of reading.
The late Dr. Carl Sagan, the popular American scientist and Cornell University professor of astronomy and space sciences, once said, “One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.”
The importance of summer reading just can’t be understated. That’s why I’m grateful this summer to have the opportunity to team up with the New York State Library and public libraries statewide, including so many throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, on the “Summer Reading at New York Libraries” initiative.
For my part, I’m offering an online summer reading program called "Fizz. Boom. Read!" To participate, students and parents can visit my Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov, and click on the “Fizz. Boom. Read!” logo in the left-hand column of the home page. Among other features, the site includes a recording journal, opportunities to share books with other family members and friends, and a series of popular summer reading lists.
At its most basic level, summarizing the range of research on the importance of summer reading for students can be stated as straightforwardly as this: it’s about getting books into the hands of kids. According to Scholastic, a few of the keys to successful summer reading are letting kids choose the books they want to read (91% of children say they’re more likely to finish a book if they’ve picked it out themselves), encouraging kids to read four or more books, and, maybe most importantly of all, providing easy access to books.
The underlying importance of access, of course, points directly to the critical role played by our public libraries to encourage students and their families to read, and as the gateway for making books and other reading materials and programs available throughout our communities. So I’m happy to join so many local public libraries and other groups and organizations seeking to encourage summer reading. Our region is incredibly fortunate to have an outstanding network of public libraries providing access to books and other reading activities, materials and opportunities.
So keep in mind that a variety of summer reading activities and events are taking place at local libraries across the region. Visit the website of the Southern Tier Library System, www.stls.org, for links to member libraries in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates. The members of the Finger Lakes Library System, including Tompkins County, can be found online at www.flls.org.
More information on the “Summer Reading at New York Libraries” program can be found on www.summerreadingnys.org. Additional information on the importance of summer reading can be found at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/summer/research.htm.
Here’s to making this summer count by making sure that it includes a little reading!
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field.
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen, 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869