Preventing summer slide through the mail

Preventing summer slide through the mail

By Amanda Neitzel, Johns Hopkins University

Summer slide, or the loss of student learning progress over the summer months, is of concern to parents and educators.  While summer school has been offered as a possible solution, it can be expensive and difficult to serve all students.  Lighter touch strategies such as engaging students to read and complete book activities through the summer months are popular alternatives.  One such program, Kids Read Now (KRN), engages K-5 students with both school-based and home-based activities while mailing them up to nine self-selected high-quality books. Additionally, parents receive weekly voice or text messages in their home language with nudges and tips for reading to and with their children. Students who report reading their selected books receive certificates and a plush reading buddy prize.  KRN has completed two quasi-experimental studies by Geoffrey D. Borman and colleagues.  

In both studies, students who chose to participate in the program were matched with students who did not choose to participate.  The five schools included came from two states.  Schools took different approaches to recruiting students, with some targeting those students with the greatest need, while others chose to invite all students to participate.  Participating students were matched with non-participating students using a sophisticated approach called propensity score matching, to ensure students were similar on three prior school test scores (either NWEA MAP or aimswebPlus) as well as demographic information.  This resulted in comparable groups in both studies.

In the first study from 2018, there was a significant impact of the program, with an effect size of +0.12 for all students.  This was estimated to be higher for students who read all 9 books (ES = +0.18).  In the second study, from 2019, there was a similar effect, with a statistically significant effect size of +0.15 for all students, and even higher for students who read all 9 books (ES = +0.21).  Both studies suggested the effect may be strongest for first grade students. This set of studies is important for showing the impact of a replicable, scalable program to address summer slide.  It also highlights the importance of replication of results, to demonstrate that successful programs can be reproduced in different schools with different students at different times.  Kids Reads Now appears to be a promising approach for schools looking to engage students with literacy over the summer months.

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