It’s getting to that time of year where summer is so close, I can practically taste it! It tastes of sunshine, cold sweet treats, play, and a renewed sense of energy. I don’t know about you and your family, but I am beyond over the snow, the constantly dirty car, wearing all the layers, and basically hibernating. Lately, in our schools, from the kids, to the teachers, to the custodians, to the parents at drop-off or pick-up, there is a shared feeling of hardly being able to contain our excitement for summer – especially after all those months of indoor recesses!
Summer is definitely a season of play and adventure, and it’s important – so many of my best childhood memories happened during summer, and I sincerely wish that for my students as well. However, I also know that summer can be a game-changer in terms of their reading and academic success, and I worry about them. Every fall I welcome back my students and immediately check in to see what skills and abilities we are starting the year with – and every single fall I find a shocking amount of my students’ skills and abilities to have regressed from where we had worked so hard to get by the end of June. For my struggling readers, this summer slide is often even more profound, bringing them down at least one or two levels in their reading.
What is The Summer Slide?
It is estimated that struggling readers who don’t engage in reading over the summer lose 2 months of progress in their reading achievement. The most concerning part of this is that this loss is cumulative for those who are struggling readers not engaging in summer reading – according to Cooper et. al, this loss “could compound to 1.5 years’ worth of reading development lost in the summer months alone” (1996). In fact, according to research engaged in Grades 1-3 students by the Reading Rockets project, 45% of their participants showed a decline in decoding skills and 25% of the participants showed a decline in their fluency skills. On top of that, lower achieving students showed a much sharper decline in their skills than their higher-achieving peers. While the study did not focus on comprehension skills, I can tell you that as a teacher I see them suffer as well, and reading for meaning is our ultimate goal! This is even more concerning when we consider the fact that reading abilities are one of the biggest contributors to, and predictors of, general academic success.
How to Beat The Summer Slide
The good news? This is an easy fix, regardless of where your child lands on the spectrum of reading abilities. All you need to do is take advantage of all the magic found in summer to read! As long as you have access to quality texts that are engaging for your child (based on their interests) and appropriately levelled, meaning they can successfully read them independently, they will maintain their reading progress and potentially even advance it for the upcoming school year.
So, here are some recommendations to prevent your child from suffering at the hand of the summer slide:
1) Make sure they have access to quality books! Visit your local library often, hit up your local bookstore as one of your summer outings, and take advantage of e-readers and Apps such as Hoot!
2) Maintain the great routines you established during the school year. Bedtime is a fantastic time to get in 15-20 minutes of reading! Even into their teen years, read alouds are incredibly beneficial – especially for struggling readers. Not only is it really healthy for attachment and bonding, but it builds listening comprehension skills, while also exposing children to new vocabulary and knowledge they might not yet be able to access themselves.
3) Going on a long trip? Books are a great way to pass the time! Better yet, get an audio book and a text for your kids to follow along! It can be a great bonding memory as a family, and the discussion you engage in can help authentically bolster those comprehension abilities.
4) Model reading yourself! Take advantage of the longer days to find yourself a good book – it can improve your own sense of well-being and your child will have the value of reading reinforced for them. After all, monkey see, monkey do and if they believe reading is enjoyable, they are more likely to persevere and take risks when it gets tough.
Overall, take advantage of the sense of play and adventure in your summer and let it extend to your reading as a family! It leads to quality bonding time, a valuable form of downtime and self-care, and a way to pass the time while the advantages to your child’s development as a reader and thinker are being optimized. It’s a win for the whole family!
Need some help with reading this summer? Sign up for Hoot sessions 2 to 3 times per week and together we can defeat the summer slide! Try your first session free today!