Attention parents: even though summer is almost over, it’s not too late to help your child become a better reader before the new school year begins. Summer is an important time for students to keep reading and improve their language skills. If your child hasn’t been reading regularly this summer, they may be in danger of the “summer slide”—a decline in their reading ability.
Numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. This effect becomes more pronounced as students get older and advance through the school system. The situation for economically disadvantaged students is especially grim: if students from low-income families don’t read over the summer, they are much more likely to fall behind their more privileged peers, widening the “achievement gap.”
“It’s like if you play an instrument but put it down for three months,” said Laurie Calvert, a teacher who is working as the Director of Teacher Outreach at ED. She wrote an academic thesis on improving summer reading programs at her North Carolina high school. “You’re not going to be as good as a person who continues to play the instrument over those three months.”
However, this “summer slide” can be avoided by ensuring that children are as engaged as possible in whatever they choose to read—just as long as they’re reading every day.
“Anything that keeps students reading works,” Calvert said. “The more engaged you are in the text, the closer you’re going to read it. The closer you read it, the more you comprehend. And that process grows your skill.”
The best ways to keep your child from becoming a “rusty reader” over the summer are:
- Encourage your children to read books they enjoy for at least 30 minutes per day. Your child will likely be more engrossed in material they choose themselves than material that is forced on them.
- Provide incentives for reluctant readers. For example, if your child enjoys basketball, agree to take them to the local court if they do their “daily reading.”
- Make reading a social act. Establish a time during the day when all members of the family gather and read on their own, or take turns reading the same book aloud.
- Connect your reading to family outings. If you take your kids to an aquarium, consider reading a book about fish or the ocean with them later that day. The outing can help place the reading into a broader context.
There’s still time for kids to pick up a book this summer. Take your children to your local library or bookstore and let them pick out a book they’re going to love today. They will be better readers tomorrow for it.