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How to Prevent the Summer Slide

How to Prevent the Summer Slide

Ah, childhood memories of summer — sleeping in, warm days at the beach, campouts, visits from relatives, reading at least four books to maintain grade level literacy and learning skills . . . What?

Most parents view summer as a time for children to play, spend time with family, pursue interests and take a break from the rigors of school. However, as Malcolm Gladwell asserts in his recent bestseller Outliers, "America doesn't have a school problem, it has a summer vacation problem."

Research shows that during the long, lazy days of summer, children who aren't encouraged to read experience the "Summer Slide," a measurable drop in reading and learning skills that has been documented in several major recent studies.

Researchers have established that Summer Slide reading losses are cumulative, which creates a widening gap between more- and less-proficient readers. By the end of fifth grade, the Summer Slide results in as much as a two-year gap in reading ability between children who read enough during the summer and those who don't.

How can parents prevent the Summer Slide? Regardless of ability level or socioeconomic status, children who read four or more age-appropriate books over the summer maintain their reading fluency, performing substantially better on reading comprehension tests in the fall than those who don't read enough. What's more, children who read 10-20 books over the summer are shown to actually improve their reading skills. Summer reading has the most impact on students in kindergarten, first and second grades — this is when children learn to read, and from third grade onward, they "read to learn."

The Summer Slide is symptomatic of this country's growing crisis in literacy. Across the country, America's children are reading less than ever before. After age 8, reading frequency in children begins to decline compared with historical levels, and continues to decrease through the teenage years.

While we may tend to blame electronic media including phones, computers, and TV, the main reason children report not reading for fun more often is simply that they struggle to find books they like. Research shows that nearly 90 percent of children indicate their favorite books are the ones they choose themselves.

Consequently, parents should provide children with easy access to books during the summer and school year, whether that means frequent library visits or building up a home library. To encourage summer reading, consider your local library summer reading programs. Another option is the Scholastic Summer Challenge, which gives young people a chance to read what they want to read, connect with other readers in a safe online community and help children in need. The International Reading Association and this blog publishes a list of age-appropriate books for every grade level, and your child's school librarian can also provide a list of titles — remember that children need to be involved in choosing the books they read.

And of course, ACDS teachers are an incredible resource for reading recommendations as well. Check out the summer reading webpage on our website.

So, this summer, do your children a favor — along with late nights and sleeping in, trips to Yosemite and Santa Cruz — throw in a few good books. Four or more good books, to be precise.