The reading skills of children coming from rich and highly educated parents improves over the summer time. It is the opposite for poor kids. Their skills go down the toilet when school shuts down for the summer. That's what a recent article in our local paper reports on an ongoing land mark study.
Kids whose parents hold Master’s degrees, PhDs and so on saw their children’s reading skills go up by two months "even though school was closed,” I can almost hear the reporter gasp, so amazed was she that learning can happen out of school.
The reporter quotes professor of sociology Dr. Scott Davies of McMaster University, who is leading the study as saying;
“It's like French immersion, but I call it socio-economic immersion — there's nothing like having two months with highly literate parents modeling vocabulary, exposing you to reading; it's like having your own private tutor or being in summer school at home.”
I was pleased to read Davies comment that, “While the benefits of educational camps, family trips, extra books, newspapers and computers account for about 25 per cent of the so-called “summer surge” experienced by children in more affluent families, those things aren't the key.”
What is key?
“It's also the daily conversations that are sophisticated and expand children's vocabularies, and being read to regularly by seasoned readers, one-on-one…
“This informal role-modelling is available to affluent children seven days per week. Less advantaged children, in contrast, have less constant exposure to those quality resources.”
Is this not proof enough that unschooling is one of the best models we know for educating children? Learning informally works.
The children of unschooling families learn informally all year long, every single day of their lives.
Can I say it again? They learn outside of school every single day. Not just during the summer.
Maybe it is less about being rich and more about being interested in and spending time with the child; actually taking the time to engage the child.
Anyone who spends time with children, and who treats the child with respect and is genuinely interested in the child and what he or she has to say knows that children learn through conversation. You talk to the child, your read to them, you read together, they read on their own.
And when it comes to reading, the philosophy of unschooling is that we read not because school tells us that we should so that we will get good grades but because it is an enjoyable activity to do and because we are intrinsically motivated to do so.
Reading is rewarding in many ways. You learn a lot from reading. You relax, your imagination is stirred. But reading is only one of many ways to learn in the world and we do a disservice to intelligence when we act as though reading is it's only reflection. I am saying this as an avid reader who respects the fact that reading is not everyone's cup of tea.
I also wonder who will still be reading from this study, years down the road, when those kids have grown up. Will it be true that they are still readers?
I am curious, as adults, who reads and what do they read?