Libraries and childrenDominican University has received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct a study of the effect summer reading programs in public libraries have on children’s reading levels. Since the education establishment in many parts of the US pays very little attention to what public libraries do any time of the year, this study cries out to be done.

Here’s how it will work. During Spring, Summer, and Fall 2008, reading scores of students leaving the third grade and entering the fourth will be measured and evaluated in five locations around the country to answer these three questions:

1) Do fourth grade students who participate in the public library summer reading clubs experience summer learning loss in reading achievement? [Given previous studies, it’s pretty much a given that they sure do if they don’t participate.]

2) Do fourth grade students who participate in the public library summer reading clubs have higher reading assessment scores in the fall, compared to their peers who do not participate? [The small amount of research that has been done on this topic so far says “Yes.”]

3) Does the level of participation in summer reading clubs predict higher levels of reading performance and motivation for fourth grade students? [Duh. Or at least, we hope Duh.]

Because so little research has validated the importance of what most public library youth librarians knock themselves out doing every summer, this project could give public libraries a critical boost in the eyes of teachers, prinicipals, parents, and the government officials who vote library budgets. We should be keeping an eye on this project.

Library consultant Carole Fiore has been recruiting libraries and schools who would like to participate. Read more about the project, and volunteer if you can. (By October 15!)