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Preventing the "Summer Slide"

I’ve written in this letter previously about the phenomenon called the “summer slide,” a measurable drop in reading skills among children who don’t get to do any reading during the summer months. As we look at the summer looming ahead of us, parents may be torn between the desire to “let children be children,” and to support the good academic momentum your students have built this year at school. 

It is true that there’s a gap, established by literacy researchers, in the reading levels of children who read enough during the summer and those who don't. That said, the summer slide has never been a concern voiced to me by ACDS parents, nor do we see an epidemic decline in reading ability among our students each September. But I do frequently get questions each year about what “academic” summer programs I recommend.

My response has been uniform: this summer, make sure your children get to be children, to play outside and have fun, and give them plenty of opportunities to read and be read to. Period. We’ll do the rest when we reconvene in September. 

What children need in the summer is unstructured independent and social play — to the extent you can be comfortable with their social interactions during a pandemic, of course — and preferably outside. This means making mud pies, looking for bugs, climbing trees, going for walks and hikes in the woods, riding their bikes. As Mrs. Hunter likes to say, “All children need to be happy is fire, dirt, and water.” And summer is the time we need to let children recharge, rejuvenate, and just be children.

So, with regard to what academic enrichment parents should pursue this summer, the answer you’ll get from me and from our teachers is simply “reading.” Studies suggest children who read at least four age-appropriate books during the summer maintain or extend their grade-level reading ability. 

Encourage your children to read, read to them, read together with them — and truly, it doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they’re engaged and enjoying themselves: comic books, graphic novels, e-books, chapter books, child periodicals like “TIME for Kids.” Just read.

A good resource for parents is The International Literacy Association (http://www.reading.org) which publishes a list of age-appropriate books for every grade level. Visit your local library. Our own librarian Mrs. Arguello has provided summer reading ideas — and remember that above all, children need to be involved in choosing the books they read.  

Enjoy many adventures and a few good books with your children this summer. And then in September, again, we’ll do the rest!

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