As summer vacation approaches, long months without academic skills practice and engaging educational experiences is a cause for concern for caregivers everywhere.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic closing schools early—not to mention dashing plans for summer camps, field trips, and other hands-on learning activities in our communities—parents and educators are more worried than ever about their kids falling behind over their vacation.
Luckily, one of the most effective solutions is relatively straightforward: Encourage them to read more.
What Is ‘Summer Slide,’ and Why Is it a Problem?
Academic skills are just like any other; if you don’t use them, they will get rusty. When children go months without practicing skills like reading and math, they will naturally start to forget what they’ve learned. This is known as “summer slide.”
When kids return to school in fall, it can take teachers weeks of remedial lessons just to bring their students back to where they were in June. However, with the focus on standardized tests and meeting specific academic targets at specific times, teachers often feel pressured to continue on to new concepts, even if many students have lost the skills they need to be successful.
This means that many of the students who fall behind over the summer do not catch up. Learning loss becomes cumulative, growing into a greater problem year after year.
By the end of 5th grade, summer slide can combine to create the equivalent of three years of reading skill lost. Now, 63 percent of 4th grade students read below reading level, and only 37 percent of students graduate high school at or above a proficient reading level.
Reading Practice Is Key to Prevent Summer Slide
Reading is foundational to all subjects in school. While many adults take literacy skills for granted, struggling with reading at grade level creates a frustrating obstacle for students across all other learning.
However, while months away from assigned reading can present a challenge, summer can be the perfect opportunity to build lifelong positive reading habits.
Focusing on reading as your kids’ summer learning goal has many benefits, including helping your child:
- Maintain basic reading and comprehension skills
- Build their vocabulary and learn new sight words
- Strengthen their ability to concentrate
- Keep their brain engaged and active
- Discover (or rediscover) their enjoyment of reading
- Explore special interests and favorite subjects
- Keep learning simple and stress-free
6 Ways to Get Kids to Read More Over the Summer
It can be difficult to motivate kids to read when they have so many different forms of entertainment at their fingertips, including social media, video games, and beyond. But with these six tips, you may find their noses buried in a book in no time.
1. Start with Other Types of Media
For reluctant readers, use other forms of media that they find easier to connect with as a jumping off point, such as video. BrainPOP’s growing library of animated movies lets children explore an ever-growing collection of educational topics across the curriculum.
Encourage your kids to follow their interests and explore a topic that grabs their attention. Once their curiosity is piqued and they want to learn more, guide them toward features designed to build literacy, like Related Reading, Primary Source, and Vocabulary.
2. Take Advantage of Your Local Library
Your local library or library website is always an excellent place to start your kids’ reading journey, especially in summer. Most libraries host summer reading clubs for children and youth, where kids can set reading goals, connect with other young readers in their communities, and sometimes even win prizes!
If your kids don’t know what to read, libraries are a great resource for book recommendations to suit any child’s interests.
Even as physical libraries are closed, almost all libraries offer ebooks and audiobooks that can be downloaded at home, either through their website or the free Libby app.
3. Give Your Child Choices
During the school year, many children only read books their teacher assigns. As such, they come to see reading as a “have-to” activity, which often leads to kids losing interest and even resisting reading altogether.
If you’re wondering how to make reading fun for your kids this summer, let your child choose their own books to read. Encourage them to follow their interests, whether that means re-reading old favorites or experimenting with something new. When children are given the freedom to choose books for themselves, they will naturally feel more motivated to read them.
4. Read Aloud with Your Kids
No matter your child’s age, reading aloud together can be a wonderful family activity that they remember for a long time.
Start by choosing a book together so that you both engage with the story—trust us, enthusiasm makes all the difference with character voices. Get cozy and comfortable with your kids and a book, and use it as a time to unwind, especially before bed.
Read-alouds are also a great time to teach active reading. Ask questions about what’s happening in the story, sound out words together, discuss any pictures included, and invite them to share their thoughts and opinions along the way.
5. Be an Example
Encouraging your kids to read more is all well and good, but children learn by example. If they see you spending your free time playing on your phone or watching TV, they will likely do the same.
While there’s nothing wrong with a little phone or TV time, if you want to bring more reading into the family routine, start by setting down your phone, turning off the TV and other noisy distractions, and dive into a book. Your child just might be inspired to follow your lead!
6. Establish a Reading Routine
Reading at home, like so many other healthy habits, is easy to let fall by the wayside as we get busy with daily schedules, or just distracted by flashier entertainment. A great way to stick to it and help your kids form strong reading habits is to create a reading routine.
Whatever your kids’ favorite book-related activity—visiting the library or library website, reading aloud, listening to audiobooks in the car, or quiet reading time in the evening—try to keep it consistent until reading becomes a family routine. Through positive habits formed early, your children will continue to grow as lifelong readers.