When you hear the words “summer slide,” what images pop into your mind? A park slide? A water slide? Sunshine and summer fun? Wrong.
The “summer slide” has nothing to do with a fun summer pastime. Instead, it’s a term used to describe the tendency for students to decline in achievement gains during the summer months when school is not in session. This phenomenon is especially prominent among students from low-income families who often lack access to books over summer break.
Luckily, there are many ways to prevent the summer slide. Giving children access to books plays a critical role in warding off summer learning loss. When students keep reading, they keep learning.
Here are 7 tips for parents and caregivers to help keep children engaged in reading during the summer months:
1.) Create a fun reading space
Set up a tent or create a reading fort. Add comfy pillows, bean bags and blankets along with a basket of books to make a fun, relaxing spot for reading. The possibilities are endless.
2.) Make a reading routine
Set aside a specific time each day to dedicate to reading. By making it a priority, you relay the message that reading is important. Make time to read together in addition to creating time for children to read on their own. A nighttime reading routine can help children associate reading with relaxing.
3.) Be a role model
Get caught reading! Children are known to model the actions of adults they love. When they see you enjoying a good book, they will follow your lead. Also, be a role model by reading aloud to your child no matter their age.
4.) Ensure reading materials are readily available
Make books easily accessible in the most used rooms of your home and carry them with you everywhere. Keep selections in your car. It’s also helpful to carry a bag of books for doctor visits, shopping trips, and long waits.
5.) Make reading an adventure: Visit libraries, bookstores, and take field trips
Take your child to your local library or bookstore. Picking out a book can be just as much fun as reading one. Sign up for a library card and take advantage of summer reading programs at your local public library. Feeling extra adventurous? Try a reading-inspired field trip! For example, if you read a book about dinosaurs, plan a visit to a local museum to learn more about them. Or, if you read a book about flowers, visit a local botanical garden.
6.) Encourage choice
Reading should be a choice not a chore. Allowing your child to choose the books they read gives them a sense of control. Graphic novels, magazines, nonfiction and newspapers should also be options in reading for pleasure. Allowing choice in reading materials goes a long way in raising life-long readers.
7.) Introduce your child to series
A book series can help keep reading interest high by keeping the “what happens next?” factor engaged. Series also address the problem of stalling between books because it eliminates the problem of figuring out what to read next!
Remember, the secret to preventing summer slide is to keep learning all summer!
Carol Nanney is a PreK-4 librarian at McKenzie Elementary School, a rural school in Northwest Tennessee where she has served for 26 years. Before becoming the librarian, she taught second grade. She is the 2018 West Tennessee Teacher of the Year and currently serves on the Teacher Advisory Council for the Tennessee Department of Education.