Reading comprehension and the summer setback phenomenon between grades 4 and 5
Fox, Jeffery David
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Research on change in academic competence over the summer period while school is not in session has been occurring sporadically for more than one hundred years. Rather consistently, it is found that low-income students tend to decline on average over the summer while middle and high-income students tend to remain constant or even grow. The major purpose of the present study was to examine the phenomenon of summer setback in reading comprehension among a sample that was primarily composed of low-income students. Specifically, the study examined (a) the relationship between reading comprehension achievement during the 4th grade school year and engagement in reading during the summer (reading for practice, reading for information, and reading self-efficacy and motivation); (b) the degree of variance in change in reading comprehension achievement over the summer period between grades 4 and 5 and the degree to which demographic characteristics explain the variance; and (c) relationships between engagement in reading during the summer (reading for practice, reading for information, and reading self-efficacy and motivation) and change in reading comprehension achievement during the summer period. It was hypothesized that reading comprehension achievement during the school year is positively related to engagement in reading during the summer. It was also hypothesized that there is a significant amount of variation in reading comprehension change over the summer period for low-income student despite average decline across all students. Finally, it was hypothesized that engagement in summer reading is positively related to change in reading comprehension over the summer. That is, students who frequently read for practice or for information and have high reading self-efficacy and motivation experience either more growth or less decline than students who read less, have low reading self-efficacy, and are not motivated to read. The findings supported the first and second hypotheses, but not the third. There was a great deal of variation in change in reading comprehension achievement during the summer period between grades 4 and 5. However, this variation was explained by prior reading achievement rather than out-of-school factors. Students with the highest levels of achievement at the end of grade 4 experienced the greatest declines in reading comprehension over the summer, but still remained higher than others at the beginning of grade 5. Results were discussed in terms of their implications for policy and instruction.