Are you ready for your children to experience the “summer slide” over the next couple of months?
No, this is not the newest attraction at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, but it is real, and it may be detrimentally changing your child’s reading skills even as you read this.
The statistics about reading regression, or summer slide, during the two months students are out of school are depressing. Here are the well-established research outcomes for children who are not reading during the summer:
Two months of reading skills are lost over the summer, which means the child returns to school with weaker reading skills than in early spring. Even worse is the fact that the summer slide is cumulative, with these learning losses compounding with each new summer without reading.
By the end of sixth grade, students who have experienced summer reading regression over the years are an average of two years behind their classmates.
Summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of the 9th-grade achievement gap in reading between students from low-income households and their higher-income peers.
Differences in children’s summer learning experiences during their elementary school years can later impact whether they earn a high school diploma or continue to college.
What can you do, Mom and Dad, to stop this from happening?
Well, if you are like most parents, you have heard about the importance of having your child read for at least 15 minutes a day, every day. The good news is that your child needs to read between two and three hours a week to prevent learning loss during the summer, which means the 15 minutes per day habit goes a long way toward that goal. Just find time for a little more reading on a few days each week, and you’ve solved the problem.
There are other things you can do to make the process easier and more fun. The first is to get to the public library—regularly—with your children.
The Colorado Education Department makes the point: “When children select reading materials themselves and read for enjoyment, they receive the most gains in reading achievement. Thus, summer programs such as those offered in public libraries that allow and encourage children to choose what they read are likely to be most successful.”
All of the area libraries are sponsoring reading programs this summer. The theme in most is “Reading Takes You Anywhere.”
At the Montgomery-Floyd libraries, the summer reading program runs from June 1 to July 21, and here are some details from their website for younger children: “Sign up at any branch. Set your own reading goal. Pick a tag and choice of key-chain or necklace. Return to the library for a second visit and receive one pool pass. Additional visits: receive one bead for each book read and/or activity accomplished. Finish your goal: Receive one free book!”
The Montgomery-Floyd website also includes a list of wonderful summer suggestions: “Read to someone. Write a review of a book. Build a fort. Read outside. Dance.
Check out a book about a place you have never been. Read while traveling. Read under a tree. Attend a library program. Read a non-fiction book. Listen to an audiobook. Read a book that has been adapted into a movie.
Go swimming. Roast marshmallows. Draw outside with chalk. Fly a kite. Complete a make and take craft. Use Hoopla or Overdrive. Make a recipe from a cookbook.”
The Radford Public Library is running a similar program. Here is information from the Radford City website about their summer program: “This year’s Summer Reading Club will last from June 2 – July 21, and will be packed with reading, prizes, and tons of fun activities! Come to the library on June 2 or after to pick up your June Reading Log. Complete your reading log to earn A FREE BOOK! Pick up a July Reading Log and complete it to win ANOTHER FREE BOOK!”
All of the libraries have special activities this summer like making slime or ice cream, story times, special author talks, animal visits, movie days and so much more. Check your library’s website for their specific programs/plans!
Another way to help children see the importance of reading is for them to see you reading. If you enjoy reading, chances are they will, too.
Use technology but emphasize it has to be for reading. You will want to monitor this closely.
Read together. Spend that 15 minutes or more a day reading with/to your child. Take turns reading. Talk about the books. Get excited about the stories. Your enthusiasm will be infectious.
Incorporate reading into summer events. If you’re going to the zoo, read a book together about zoo animals. If you’re going to the beach, get a beach-themed book. If you’re going to the planetarium, read about the solar system or space. A little planning ahead or follow-up after will create a lot of reading interest.
Now if you have read this column to this point, chances are you may be doing a lot of these things already. Congratulations!
Here is one last idea: invite children from other families to join your children for a “reading/library play date.” If you’re going to the library for an activity, ask a couple of friends along. Get them involved in the summer library reading program with a reading log and let them pick out books.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles—anyone can help by trying to get kids to the library.
You see, some children may not have a ride, their parents may work, or it might not be a priority in their family, but it would be easy to incorporate an extra child or two into your plans. The children will have a blast at the library seeing their friends, socializing, and yes, reading.
You’re helping your children avoid the summer slide, and you could be helping other children, too. In an ideal world, all children, no matter what their circumstances, would have a chance to read every day and participate in those fun activities. A little help from you might make a huge difference. Think about it!
Okay, you’ve got the statistics, you’ve checked out the activities, and you’ve started to fill in your summer calendar with reading times/fun events. Instead of your children experiencing a summer reading slide lower, they’re going to fly higher!
There’s just one thing left to do: have fun reading! Oh, and see you at the library!
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.