Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Involving Parents in a Summer Book Reading Program to Promote Reading Comprehension, Fluency, and Vocabulary in Grade 3 and Grade 5 Children

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Involving Parents in a Summer Book Reading Program to Promote Reading Comprehension, Fluency, and Vocabulary in Grade 3 and Grade 5 Children

Article excerpt

Parents and educators hope that young children who are learning to read will become lifelong readers. It is hoped that children will be emotionally engaged in the material they read and draw satisfaction from the activity itself. Indeed, ideally reading will become an activity that children will want to do for pleasure. In addition, recreational reading can also be a source of learning (Krashen, 1989). The frequency of pleasure reading has been positively associated with strong reading skills, vocabulary, and world knowledge (Mol & Bus, 2011). For instance, Anglophone and Francophone Canadian children who report reading more for pleasure tend to have better vocabulary and literacy skills (Senechal & LeFevre, 2002; Senechal, 2006).

A necessary condition to foster independent voluntary reading, however, is that children understand what they read. Reading comprehension requires that children read the text with some fluency to integrate ideas, have sufficient vocabulary to interpret the information, and be engaged in the reading process to make active use of strategies. Children with poorer literacy skills might not read voluntarily because of weaknesses in one or more of these areas. In the present study, we trained parents as reading partners who encouraged, modelled, and coached their child to read during the summer holidays. Moreover, children were encouraged to independently read books matched to their interests and reading skills. The children had low to average levels of reading and vocabulary skills.

Interventions to Improve Reading: Summer Programs

There is some evidence that increasing voluntary reading can increase reading ability (Roman & Fiore, 2010). Moreover, some have suggested that the home literacy environment could be improved by increasing children's access to books (McQuillan & Au, 2001). Indeed, correlational research has shown that the number of books a child reads over the summer months is positively related to the child's achievement in the fall (e.g., Heyns, 1978; Kim, 2004; Phillips & Chin, 2004). Recent studies on summer reading, however, have shown that access to books might not be sufficient. Kim and White (2008) as well as Kim and Guryan (2010) reported no statistically significant difference in reading performance for children in Grades 3 to 5 receiving books matched to their reading level and interest as compared to children in a control condition. Although it might be the case that children might need additional support from teachers, Kim (2007) reported that Grade 1 to Grade 5 children (N = 279) who received teacher training at the end of the school year and received books weekly did not perform differently from control children at the end of the summer months. Might it therefore be the case that involving parents is necessary?

Certainly, longitudinal correlational research with younger children has shown a robust and positive relation between the degree of parent involvement and child language and literacy outcomes. In three Canadian studies, the frequency with which parents reported reading books to their child was linked to child vocabulary knowledge, while the frequency of parent reports of teaching literacy skills was linked to children's early literacy and eventual reading fluency (for findings with French children, English children, and French-immersion children, respectively, see Senechal, 2006; and Senechal & LeFevre, 2002, 2014). Moreover, a meta-analysis of intervention studies found that parents could be effective literacy tutors (Senechal & Young, 2008). However, the research on involving parents to enhance reading through voluntary reading has yielded mixed results. First, sending a letter to parents encouraging them to listen to their child read did not increase reading performance in three large-scale studies with children in Grades 3 to 5 (Kim, 2006; Kim & White, 2008; Villiger, Niggli, Wandeler, & Kutzelmann, 2012). …

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