A team of researchers the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work has won an international award for a research paper on the summer learning effect of children’s learning deteriorating because of the summer holidays.­­

Frauke Meyer

The research paper by Dr Frauke Meyer, Dr Kane Meissel and Professor Stuart McNaughton reporting their study into literacy learning in German primary schools over summer and the influence of home literacy practices won the best article award in the Research in Reading Journal from the UK Literacy Association Wiley-Blackwell Research in Literacy Education.

“The award is a really exciting recognition of the work that went into the research and the paper,” lead author Dr Frauke Meyer said. “We are all thrilled about receiving this award. It is a tremendous honour.”

Previous research has tended to point to a lack of resources in low-income homes as being the main factor in children losing literacy skills over summer. The key finding of this University of Auckland research was that parents who valued literacy and enjoyed reading and writing themselves were more likely to provide literacy resources and activities for children over summer. Low income parents typically struggled more to provide resources, but would draw on the library or school resources to provide for their children.

“The main causes of the summer effect lay in parents not embedding literacy activities at home, and parents often lacking the knowledge about what kind of resources or activities were appropriate for their children,” Dr Meyer said.

Future interventions could look at supporting parents to provide the right resources and activities for the reading or writing stage of their children. The other aspect is to provide literacy activities that are enjoyable and meaningful to children.

Even though the research took place in Germany, the team says it has lessons for New Zealand. “We need to think about how to support parents and kids in regard to what kind of resources and activities will support their literacy development.”

A current intervention that is happening here in New Zealand, led by a team at the Woolf Fisher Research Centre, is a blogging programme that engages children in reading and writing over the summer through blogging. The programme has shown some positive effects.

In contrast, Dr Meyer says, recent changes to the funding of library services in Auckland are a worrying step in the wrong direction, and are likely to have a disproportionate effect on access to resources and support for those who need it most.

Dr Meyer will travel to Cardiff in July to present on the paper and receive the award.

To read a copy of their winning article, visit Wiley’s online library which has opened access to it.

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