Teachers know, and experts agree, that what is often referred to as the "summer slide" can harm your child's educational progress.
Research demonstrates that all students experience significant learning losses during the summer months, according to the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. Children from low-income families are especially at risk, and may experience an average loss of two to three months in reading skill over the summer months. (For more information on the Center for Summer Learning, see the link below.)
Reading is a skill for life, and, as with any skill, practice is key. Studies have shown that children who read more become better readers. Children who read over the summer months often gain, rather than lose, important skills. When children become better readers, reading becomes a more enjoyable experience, and they want to read more. Whether your child is just beginning to learn the letters of the alphabet or reading Shakespeare, reading every single day, even in the summer, will keep reading enjoyable and skills sharp. Particularly for students who struggle, keeping hard-earned literacy skills strong over the summer break is essential.
It's not hard to do. Many libraries and bookstores offer summer reading clubs that keep children engaged with parties and prizes to encourage reading. With so many great books out there, summer is the time for you to help your child find books and magazines that are interesting and fun. Your local public library or bookstore can help you and your child find just the right book about just the right topic. Whether it is a book about building bridges, a favorite athlete, a magazine about cool cars or a funny comic book, reading for at least 30 minutes a day will keep your child on the road to becoming a lifelong reader. Writing should be part of the summer, too. Encourage your child to keep a summer journal and write letters to grandparents and friends.
There are many wonderful resources on the internet that can give you ideas and activities to keep reading alive over the summer. You can also learn more about the importance of summer learning. Here are some that are worth checking out:
- The Michigan Department of Education has developed wonderful summer learning guides for Pre-K through Grade 2. Scroll down on the page to find links to the guides. Also, click on "Additional Learning Materials" for games and stories that strengthen literacy skills.
- "Reading Is Fundamental" has two great brochures that provide fun ideas for weeks of great summer reading, Summertime Reading Adventures and Summertime Reading for Children of All Ages.
- This site from the Florida Department of Education has a calendar of summer reading and learning activities for young children.
- The British Columbia Public Library offers summer reading tips for parents, with a special emphasis on reading with your preschooler.
- Scholastic.com has launched "Summer Reading Counts," an interactive online resource for families. This special area devoted to summer reading features interactive and fun activities for children, in addition to expert advice and information for parents and caregivers.
- The Center for Summer Learning, based at Johns Hopkins University, seeks to create high quality summer learning opportunities for all young people. The Center develops, evaluates, and disseminates model summer learning programs, stimulates research, and builds public support to ensure that no child takes a vacation from learning during the summer months.
- "Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions" by Harris Cooper, from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
Deanna Stecker is an early literacy specialist. She has a master's degree in applied educational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, with a specialty in reading. She has experience both as a researcher and a teacher, including teaching and assessing beginning reading, and serving as a consultant to classroom teachers and administrators.