The start of summer means it is time to think about the summer slide. Summer slide refers to the learning loss that young people experience during the summer months. Did you know that when children don’t read over the summer, they could lose more than two months of achievement in reading? This means that children who do not read during the summer can “lose” two whole years of schooling by 5th grade because they lose two months of achievement during the summer and spend the first two months of school catching up. Yikes!
While it is always important to support a child’s learning at home, summer is the most important time. Below are five suggestions for how to keep a child’s reading skills sharp during the summer months.
1. Join the Summer Reading Challenge at your local library
Your local library is likely an amazing resource that I encourage you to take advantage of. Most libraries offer some type of summer reading program that might include weekly story time, book clubs, author visits, book parties, hands on activities and access to an amazing range of great FREE children’s literature! If your child is school-aged, they can usually get their own library card, too.
2. Read a chapter book together
If your child is five or older, reading a chapter book together is a terrific way to enjoy a piece of literature while also creating a family bond. You can laugh, cry and wonder together. It is important for children to see the adults in their lives valuing reading, and this is one way to model just that. Reading a longer chapter book also helps develop the skill of holding onto a story over multiple days and remembering what happened in previous chapters. If you are new to chapter books, the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo is a great place to start. While the books are written as a series, they do not have to be read in order.
3. Establish a summer reading routine
Reading every single day is the most important thing your child can do to prevent summer slide. Summers can be a little bit busy – schedules are different, bedtimes are often more flexible, perhaps friends and family are visiting. In order to fit in reading every day, identify a plan to make this happen. Reading doesn’t always have to be a bedtime routine. What is important is finding a time that works for your family and sticking to it. Perhaps you and your child read books over breakfast or your child reads for 30 minutes between getting home from camp and dinner. It doesn’t matter when! It just needs to happen.
4. Listen to audio books, podcasts, or watch video books
If you are headed out for a road trip this summer, audiobooks and kid-oriented podcasts are a great tool to make the ride go faster. Audio books help young readers build valuable skills such as stamina, vocabulary, and the ability to visualize. Many local libraries are linked with an audiobook app that is free when you enter your library card number. My library provides anyonone with a library card free access to an app called Libby, published by OverDrive, and an app called Hoopla that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV! If you have young children, the Magic Tree House series is a great place to start your audio book adventures. Kid podcasts are also a great free resource! Using whatever you use to listen to podcasts, these five podcasts are a great place to start:
Wow in the World
Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified
Finally, have you discovered the world of book videos? Storyline Online is an amazing resource of award winning children’s books being read aloud by celebrated actors such as Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, and James Earl Jones. In our house Arnie the Doughnut is a favorite.
5. Document your summer in a journal
Writing supports reading. Keeping a daily journal of what happened on each summer day is a terrific day to support your child’s writing skills while also nurturing their reading development. If your child doesn’t yet write, no problem! For young children, treat the journal as a shared activity where the child dictates what is written and you write down their ideas. Then, read back what has been written and have the child add an illustration. If you have an older child who is a reluctant writer, sit down next to your child and write in your journal (doesn't need to be fancy! A few pieces of paper stapled together will work!). Think aloud about how you are deciding what to write. It might sound like “Wow. We had a busy day. We went to grandma’s house for a picnic. I’m going to write about that. Today we went to Grandma Jane’s house for a picnic. Our cousins were there. We were so happy to see them. I watched as everyone played on the tree swing. They swung so high I thought their feet were going to touch the sky.” You can also “share the pen” where the child writes a sentence and you write a sentence.
These are just five ideas, but there are lots more. What ideas do you have to prevent summer learning loss?