A couple of years ago, before moving to New York, I worked as a Kindergarten teacher in San Francisco. I can remember quite well the day before summer vacation began—almost every teacher was complaining that the time spent away from school during the summer would have students forgetting everything they had learned that year. That’s not to say teachers wanted to stay in class and teach all summer, but the “summer slide” was definitely apparent on the first day back at school, and so something to cause a lot of worry. So, come the last day of school, I sent my students home with their backpacks full of books—they thought Christmas had arrived (and how happy I was to see 5- and 6-year-olds excited about reading!).
David Brooks’ article in the NY Times last week was an interesting read, as he touched on the effects of books on a child’s learning, especially in regards to the power of books over the summer period. According to results, students who took home 12 books over their summer vacation had significantly higher reading scores than other students (to be expected, I would imagine), but that having books in the home also produces other significant educational gains.
Another study brought to our attention in the article illustrates the effects of the internet and the declining math and reading scores of students. Though the internet helps one become knowledgeable about current events and trends (and what our friends are up to every second of the day), it is the literary world, says David Brooks, that produces better students right now.
I’m going to agree with Mr. Brooks on his opinion. As I saw with my young students, the class computer was fun (and incredibly popular during free time), but reading books gave my Kindergarteners something more, and there was such pride on my students’ faces when they had finished reading a book that I never saw when they had finished a game on the computer. Seeing my students beaming from taking home a backpack of books on the last day of school—and having a love of books themselves—was definitely worth all the headaches of being a Kindergarten teacher.
While reading the comments following the Times article, it seems there are many people who feel as though the internet has affected our attention span, and so made it more difficult to sit down and enjoy a good book with all the distractions out there—breaking news, twitter updates, constant email notifiers etc.
So, my question is: do you think books and the internet are two different worlds and able to complement each other? Or, do you think the internet really is the downfall of our students and their love of books?