Research published by the National Summer Learning Association shows students who don't crack a book during summer break can lose up to two months of reading comprehension by the start of the new school year.
Olentangy Local School District students are combating that statistic with myON, a digital book service piloted by the district.
Nearly 9,000 students have signed up for the program that, during the pilot period, comes at no cost to the district.
As of July 10, those students in grades K-5 have read more than 16,000 books for about 3,500 total hours. That's about 145 total days of reading since the students signed up for the program at the end of the school year.
"This has been a good way to get kids reading in the summer in addition to traditional ways they might otherwise do that -- by participating in the library reading programs or reading with their families," said district Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jack Fette. "We thought this would be a nice complement, because you can download the books anywhere and take them with you."
The program, which allows students to download thousands of books to a computer or mobile device, gives Olentangy students everything Harvard assistant education professor James Kim's research has shown to control summer reading loss: access to books, match of reading skills and monitored comprehension.
When a student signs up for the digital book service, he or she takes a short test to determine current reading level. Once a reading level is established, students can chose from books of all topics in the appropriate category.
After reading a certain number of books, the program will test the student again to track reading level progress.
"This program is nice because we can set it up to test students as much or as little as we'd like, and then the company will send us that data," Fette said. "But we did decide not to test after every book, because it's not about testing kids, it's about letting kids read what they want to in their reading level and learning that reading can be fun."
The most popular topic among Olentangy students seems to be sports. The top five most-read books as of July 10 are Don't Break the Balance Beam, Dodger Dreams: The Courage of Jackie Robinson, Gymnastics Jitters, Creepy Urban Legends and Amelia Earhart: Legendary Aviator.
Some of the district's schools have created additional incentives to get students reading.
According to myON data, Alum Creek Elementary School students have read the most hours. They've been promised an extra fall field day if they collectively reach 75,000 reading hours.
At Cheshire Elementary School, Principal Justin Syroka hosts an annual summer reading program. Students in grades 1-5 who read at least 900 minutes during the summer are invited to an annual "sundae extravaganza," and those who read at least 1,200 minutes get a $5 gift card for the fall book fair.
Cheshire kindergartners who are read to for 600 minutes will receive a reading medal, and completing 900 minutes will earn them a $5 book-fair gift card.
"These students wouldn't be reading as much as they are this summer if teachers and principals hadn't created some incentives and programs that have encouraged them to do so," Fette said.
There is no firm end date for the pilot program, Fette said, but the district has made it clear to the company that it won't make a decision to purchase myON until school is back in session Aug. 14.
"We want to get feedback from students, teachers and parents before we make a decision," he said. "Especially any time there is a cost associated with something, we want to figure out how it can best be used in the future."
All returning students are eligible to use the program. Fette said for login information, parents should contact their child's school.