‘Summer slide’ can be slippery slope for young readers

July 31, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Teachers dread it. Parents lament it. Kids often regret it once school starts in fall.

It’s the summer slide – that annual dip in educational activity that causes kids to “lose” some of what they learned during the school year. Researchers say children may lose two months of reading achievement, on average, during summer, and teachers can spend a month of instructional time re-teaching what has been lost before moving on to something new.

While the slide can affect all academic areas, it’s of greatest concern with regard to literacy and math skills. (See related post on math.) Without regular practice, these skills can diminish over the summer months. Research indicates this is especially the case in high-poverty communities.

According to Reading Is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States, summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade, children who do not read over the summer are two years behind other children, says RIF.

Schools initiate reading challenges, libraries offer reading programs – yet still, there are students whose motivation to learn dwindles during the summer.

Spending just 20 minutes a day reading can boost student achievement – and reading just six books over the summer can prevent academic loss. Researchers have found that students read more when they can choose their own books, and 8 out of 10 studies indicate students who read for fun outperform those who did not.

There’s still time to help your child minimize the slide by clocking some time with a book. How can you encourage them?

  • Talk to your child about the importance of summer reading.
  • Make reading exciting rather than thinking of it as a chore.
  • Set aside family reading time when everyone grabs a book and hangs out together reading.
  • Create a no TV or electronic game time during part of each day – or turn on close-captioning on your TV so your children can read along.
  • Join a summer reading program at your local library.
  • Let your child choose his/her own books.
  • Keep a supply of reading materials around the house. Magazines, comic books, and cookbooks count!
  • Set a regular time to visit the library each week – an appointment that can’t be missed.
  • Ask your child questions about the books he or she is reading.
  • Read a book to your child.
  • Listen to your child read to you.
  • Pick a favorite author or series and read all the books.
  • Listen to books on tape while traveling.
  • Model reading.

Developing summer reading habits can build a foundation for future learning success, so as parents we need to encourage some summertime page turning. Remember: Just 20 minutes a day can make a difference. Every minute is worth it.


The New York State Education Department offers information on the importance of summer reading.

For more information about the summer slide, check out this wikispaces.com page. Reading Is Fundamental created a primer on summer learning loss.

Tags: , ,