Friday, July 6, 2012

School holidays are great for kids--are they?

Go back to your childhood---- it’s the last day of school and the holidays are nigh. Fantastic; you have two weeks or in the case of the summer holidays, 6 or more weeks of bliss, having fun and what?
For some it was boredom after a while and for other it meant getting into trouble. Nothing has changed about those feelings, but there is something a little scary of research published is true.
For those kids who have been falling behind with their reading, then the holidays only make matters worse. If you come from a family where books and learning are ‘ingrained’ (Cultural Capital) then you will continue to read and involve yourself in appropriate activities along with some that parents don’t readily approve of---well, that’s not so new is it?
Imagine though if you have struggled with your literacy (and numeracy) skills in school and come from a home where the major effort goes into just putting ‘bread on the table.’ There may be no access to books, and reading is considered or to put it even more bluntly, ‘not considered’ a valuable pastime.
For these kids, any gains made during term time, are actually reversed in the short time the kids are away from school. Yes, if you measure their levels on their return to school, there is a strong chance that some kids fall even further behind the national average for their reading. It seems that reading IS A SKILL THAT MUST BE PRACTICED. Use that skill (especially as a young learner) or you start to lose it. You get out of the habit in an incredibly short time.
This has serious implications for these kids. Failure is reinforced and the accompanying behaviours are enhanced making gains even harder for the teacher. This group of kids needs a major input. They must be given access to books during the holidays. I know there are programmes around to achieve this, but it is simply not enough. The problem is even worse amongst boys, where we have to break some pretty damned bad stereotypes about books and reading.
This research and information needs to be given voice and we must act collectively to address this serious problem. Reading does not have to be presented in a boring manner. If it’s combined with part of other holiday programs there is every chance that we can ‘stop the rot’ and have our kids return to school, still essentially up with the remainder of their cohorts. We have a long way to go