Summer Literacy – Preventing the “Summer Slide”

Blog by Mrs. Rossman, Reading Specialist:

It’s nearly that time of year again!  Family vacations, swimming at the pool, summer camp and doing nothing (and loving it!) are on the horizon.  Kids, parents and teachers are all counting down the days until life can slow down a bit.  The last thing kids are thinking about is reading; that’s when the “summer slide” begins.

The “summer slide” isn’t something sending you splashing down into the pool.  It’s what happens when a child doesn’t read over the summer.  This is true for any child.  Some facts:

“Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates.”  (http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/summer-reading-slide.htm)

“Research shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer vacation.”  (http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/articles/keeping-kids-off-the-summer-slide.htm)

Ok.  These facts are a bit rough, but parents CAN help.  There are many, many ideas out there and I’d like to share what we do in my family to keep reading and storytelling vibrant over the summer.  Maybe our ideas will inspire you!

1.      Prioritize 15-20 min of reading before bed every night.  If it’s the rule, then the occasional night off is no big deal.  Sometimes we go to bed later than intended, but it’s worth it.

2.      Download an audiobook to listen to on car trips or even just before bed.  This year, my older girls loved the Guardian series (the books behind the Rise of the Guardians movie) by William Joyce.  Nicholas St. North is the first novel in the series, but you can start with his picture book, Man in the Moon.  My kids really relaxed when they listened to the story and it was an amazing segue to bedtime.  *It had some dark parts, but even my 4 year old loved every moment of it!  Audible.com and Itunes are both great for this.  (*If you’re not sure it’s appropriate for your kids, always read it yourself first)

3.      Some of the neighbors started a book club for kids.  Each week, a different child picked the book and all the kids read it (there were about 5 or 6 kids) and engaged in discussion about it. Sometimes parents asked comprehension questions; sometimes they had an art project.  Sometimes the kids talked about their favorite part and were done.  Anything was ok, but because it made reading social and fun; the kids loved every minute of it!

4.      My husband and I make an effort to read hard copies of books, magazines, newspapers, etc.  Sometimes this is hard to do, but we try!

5.      My oldest and I read the same book (she on her Kindle and me on the ipad) and then talk about what happened and the exciting/SHOCKING parts.  Just recently I asked her what the author’s message was/the lesson in the story was.  She wasn’t sure, but was able to tell me what the character learned.  These are just the conversations you want to have with your child.  Short, but insightful and meaningful!

6.      We tell stories (occasionally the same one again and again!) over dinner, in the car, before bed, while waiting in line, etc.  Kids love to hear stories about mom and dad as children, or as we call them, “little-boy Daddy stories” and “little-girl Mommy stories.”  Telling and listening to stories is different from reading stories, but equally as important for engaging the mind and preparing kids to be story tellers – a crucial skill in writing.
The kids love hearing the stories behind their favorite religious holidays, so those count too!  Maybe you could even get your child to think of their own “little-girl” and “little-boy” stories and write them down to tell their friends or future families.

7.       I try to read the classics to the kids.  We just finished Charlotte’s Web together and worked through the tough themes and related them to our lives, particularly working through the loss of our beloved pet this past fall.  Novels are an avenue for kids to learn lessons about life. Who better to guide them through this than a grownup who knows and loves them best?

Also, check out the county’s summer reading lists for rising 6th-8th graders for *great read aloud ideas with elementary age students:  http://www.fcps.edu/is/summer/reading/index.shtml
(*always read books first if you’re unsure the content will be appropriate for you own children)

Remember, parents, we hold the key to encouraging a love of learning, curiosity, and processing of difficult ideas in our children.  What we do over the summer to keep our students growing will set them up for academic success.  So, let’s get our kids reading and listening to and telling stories and, most importantly, relating them to their own lives.  Let’s keep reading fun this summer!

Please contact me at Melissa.Rossman@fcps.edu if you have any questions.  And, keep an eye open for my next post with apps and websites to visit for more summer literacy ideas.