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Avoid the summer slide

Try these quick and easy research-based tips to keep learning alive when school is out

You’ve probably heard of the summer slide. It’s a term experts use to describe the loss of learning that takes place over the summer months among kids who don’t participate in educational activities. The summer slide, according to some experts, can begin as early as the summer between kindergarten and first grade. It impacts math skills as well as reading, and it can affect children in all grades.

The summer slide can have serious consequences for children. According to the National Education Association, the achievement gap that separates some students from others in ninth grade stems from the disparate summer learning opportunities in grade school. However, a University of Tennessee at Knoxville study has shown that encouraging kids to read a dozen books over the summer was “as effective” as summer school in raising students’ reading scores.

But with time on task (and a little help from you), the summer slide is not inevitable. Kids can still enjoy the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer while keeping books in their lives and return to school in the fall ready and eager to learn.


Try these ideas:

1. Support your kid’s choices

Fact: Kids won’t read if they’re on edge, feel pressured, dislike the material, or are forced to read books you select for them. Welcome their input and voice.

What the research says: Students who are encouraged to choose at least some of their summer books are more likely to hold ground or make gains, according to a University of Rochester Medical School study. Other studies show a rise in fluency, writing, comprehension, and vocabulary, compared with kids who had no choice.

What educators say: Encourage reading for pleasure while you help kids stay on top of summer homework in reading and math, and other school-mandated activities. Voluntary reading can help boost writing skills, vocabulary, proficiency and comprehension.

What to do next: Rethink summer reading. Support your student’s choices and share her excitement. Let her set the terms. If she wants to read graphic novels, ebooks, newspapers and magazines, or even listen to a podcast or audiobook, that’s fine too. Kids who have permission to choose when to read, where to read, and what to read, in what order, and in whatever form they want to gain big benefits, so untie that knot.


2. Get to know your library

Fact: It’s not enough for kids to show up once, grab a book, go home, and read it—barely.

What the research says: Enrolling kids in high-quality, activity-oriented, library-based summer programs can help boost kids’ reading scores and encourage interest in reading.

What educators say: Libraries rock because they offer kids carefully curated, hand-picked, immersive/engaging, soup-to-nuts opportunities for reading and learning new skills. Just spending time in the stacks exposes kids to a literacy-rich environment, knowledgeable librarians, and vast resources for readers of all ages.

What kids gain: Access to a variety of genres, writing styles, and authors; story time with same-age children; spirited discussions; fun contests and prizes; special programs; guest speakers; reading logs, and other motivators. Also, a boost in comprehension and reading skills through plays, activities, and games.

What to do next:  Sign your kid up for a library-based program and encourage regular attendance. Find like-minded kids and families to make carpool time fun.


3. Share your passion for reading

Fact: Your reading behavior matters.

What the research says: Parents’ attitudes toward reading (including how early and often they read aloud to their kids) determine how well prepared kids are to start reading in grade school.

What educators say: Reading is contagious, and kids whose parents read aloud often and who demonstrate a love of reading tend to adopt those behaviors. Summer programs and assignments are great, but they can’t do it all.

What to do next: Let your kids see you reading. Show an interest in their choices. Help make time for your children’s assigned and leisure reading. Talk about authors, writing style, plots, descriptive passages, and even new words your child encountered. Did he look them up or understand the words in context? Catch your kids learning. At dinner, or on a lazy summer evening, check in with your kids. Ask questions, share thoughts, encourage curiosity, and investigate related ideas, stories, and topics together.


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