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KNOXVILLE – Though Alice Cooper famously sang “school’s out for the summer,” he failed to come out with the follow-up hit “school’s back in session.” Likewise, when children are let out for summer vacation, they, too, forget that school will start again in August.

According to Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, education professors at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the summer break is when children fall behind in reading.

According to Allington, best estimates indicate that 80 percent of the reading achievement gap between achieving and struggling readers occurs during the summer when achieving readers read and struggling readers don’t.

Allington and McGill-Franzen provide five tips on how to encourage your children to read during the summer:

  1. Explore the Bookstore – Parents can take children on a field trip to Barnes and Noble, Borders or a local bookstore and let them explore the different genres and varieties that may not be offered during the school year.
  2. Power to Choose – Few adults do much “assigned reading,” particularly for pleasure, so forget about making kids read the “classics” and instead let them choose what they want to read.
  3. Talk About Reading – Parents can read books they want to or books their child has selected to read to engage the child in conversations about the book. Talking to your children about the characters and action in the book they are reading can help you get to know them better.
  4. Set an Example – Parents can set aside a daily time for reading and engage in reading themselves.
  5. Practice Matters – If primary grade children read ten to fifteen books and intermediate and secondary students read five or six books over the summer, they can stem summer reading loss and usually produce a small gain in reading achievement.

McGill-Franzen says that children enjoy reading books within a series because the characters and plots tend to fit into their social and cultural network, and children can easily talk to their peers about series books.

Allington is a member of the International Reading Association’s board of directors. McGill-Franzen, director of the UT Reading Center, has authored books and articles on young children’s literacy development.


Emma Macmillan, 865-974-9409,

Whitney Holmes, 865-974-5460,