Developing reading stamina takes work. Learning to read is only the first step in learning to be a strong reader; students must also learn stamina, comprehension and connection. During the school year, students practice reading every day, which helps them become more proficient. However, the long summer months are a time for playing and relaxing, so many students stop reading altogether. This causes a familiar problem for teachers: the summer slide.
The summer slide occurs when students lose the reading skills they developed over the preceding school year. Summer reading for students is critical to starting the next year off where the students left off. There is no shortcut to this. The summer months are important reading skill development months, when students can really dig deeper into their reading because there are fewer academic and extracurricular activities taking place. Students can focus on quantity of reading and exercising voice and choice they do not always have during the school year. When teaching literacy to school-aged children, teachers can influence their summer reading by explaining how important it is, developing and marketing a summer reading program, and making sure kids have access to books during the summer.
Summer Reading Is Significant
Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the beginning of a year than they did at the end of the previous year. The lower a student’s economic status, the greater the loss in reading level over the summer — many students drop more than two reading levels. For students who were behind to begin with, this can be devastating.
It is hard enough to develop reading levels during the regular school year, but to make up lost time in September and October adds another level of difficulty. Summer reading for students is necessary if students are going to head back to school ready to pick up where they left off.
Teachers know that teaching literacy relies on consistency and quantity. Students do not have to read difficult texts or classics over the summer in order to make gains. Just two books a month can help maintain a child’s reading levels. One study by the Johns Hopkins University showed that while student gains were consistent during the school year regardless of economic differences, loss over the summer was significantly higher among lower-income children with limited access to books and magazines.
Teachers Can Make Summer Reading Fun
After all the hard work teachers put into student learning and retention, it is very frustrating to watch students’ reading slide over the summer. For this reason, teachers have created programs to help prevent the summer slide.
The early childhood years are the most critical in terms of loss of reading level. According to a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.”
Many teachers fight to keep summer school open even if a program is not running so that students can access library books. Other teachers create programs so kids can tally their reading and receive prizes when they return in the fall. Summer reading for students can be informal and fun, which helps students feel good about reading. Schools can also work with libraries to make sure all students have a free library card and access to the library throughout the summer. Finally, teachers can help mobile libraries determine which communities need the most books each week.
Parents and Teachers Can Help Students Prioritize Reading
There are many things parents and teachers can do to help make reading a priority throughout the summer:
- Start a book club so kids can share what they are reading and why it resonates with them. When kids know they will be talking about a specific book during book club, they are more likely to read the book carefully and take pride in club membership.
- Learn children’s tastes. Librarians are great at getting kids excited about reading. If parents listen to their children throughout the week, they can tell their librarians what they think might interest their children so the librarians can find the perfect book for the week.
- Ask children if they would like to plan a trip. Ensure this trip would involve research, and require children to write something about it so they grow from the experience.
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