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Professor's research on summer reading cited in the Huffington Post

  |   Kathryn Kao   |   Permalink   |   Kudos,   Media Mention,   Students and Faculty

Jennifer Graff, an associate professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, was recently cited for her research on summer reading setback among economically disadvantaged elementary students in the Huffington Post.

Written by Melaney Smith, the author and founder of Athens-based nonprofit Books for Keeps, the article details the inspiration behind the organization's launch and how it works to combat "summer slide," or the learning achievement loss that underprivileged children tend to experience over the summer.

According to Smith, children who don't have access to public libraries during the summer, due to geography or lack of transportation, can fall two to four months behind their more privileged peers. Since the impact is cumulative, these students can end up four years behind their classmates by the sixth grade.

"It affects children from low-income families at a disproportionate rate," wrote Smith. "A 2001 study actually counted books in the homes of children in high-poverty neighborhoods. The tally? One book per 300 children."

While she was researching how to combat the effects of summer slide, Smith read a study co-authored by Graff, who also serves as the College's reading endorsement program coordinator. Her study found that after three years of giving underprivileged children 12 books each at the end of the school year, the impact on reading achievement was on par with attending summer school.

Graff also helped Smith understand a key factor to success: book selection. "Turns out, if we want children to read, we have to give them books they actually want to read," she said.

Smith's Books for Keeps program is heavily influenced by Graff's study, which takes on "a structured, research-based approach to mitigating summer slide in elementary school children." Every year, the organization sets up free book fairs in school media centers that allow students to self-select 12 high-quality books they actually want to read over the summer. Since 2009, Books for Keeps has given more than 185,000 books to children from low-income families.

Smith, who currently works as an information security analyst for Symantec, was recently recognized as a 2015 L'Oréal Paris Woman of Worth and will use L'Oréal's grant funds to expand and support Books for Keeps.

Graff studies the sociocultural contexts of reading engagement and practices among culturally and linguistically diverse youth. Her areas of expertise include reading education, children's and young adult literature, reader response and qualitative research paradigms.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post's website.

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