The Blacktop Blog Posts

Reflections on the Coronavirus Summer Slide
Dr. Olaf Jorgenson

I’ve written previously about the phenomenon called the “summer slide,” a measurable drop in reading and learning skills among children who don’t get to do any reading during the summer months. 

As summer 2020 approached, I heard from a number of parents concerned by news reports about learning deficits now reported in children that were caused by pandemic’s impact on instruction in many schools. 

Students who had little or no high quality online learning in the past three months, the reports assert, could be subject to a gap in learning that will be compounded by an additional two or three months of summer holiday without any instruction or opportunities to read. This turns the summer slide into the “Coronavirus Summer Slide.”

It is true that there’s a measurable gap, established by literacy researchers, in the reading levels of children who read enough during the summer and those who don't. The summer slide has never been a concern voiced to me by ACDS parents, but or the first time in a dozen years, parents started asking me recently to recommend summer tutors or academic enrichment programs, or provide other suggestions to help prevent the Coronavirus Summer Slide.

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. 

What children need in the summer, especially this year after three months of staring at screens, is unstructured independent and social play -- to the extent they can safely be social this summer -- preferably outside. This means making mud pies, looking for bugs, climbing trees, going for walks and hikes in the woods, riding their bikes. Nan 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.

As far as the Coronavirus Summer Slide, it is a real concern for those children who had little or no instructional enrichment from March to June. That is simply not the case for ACDS students, as Continuous Learning advanced the curriculum in every subject. To prepare for our return to on-campus instruction, our teachers are meeting this week to discuss individual student needs across grade levels, “bridging” as we do every year so they’re prepared to meet those needs and move their classes forward. We will be ready to pick up where everyone left off when we all come back to ACDS in August. 

So, with regard to what academic enrichment parents should pursue this summer, my answer 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 Ms. Egli also provided summer reading ideas — remember that children need to be involved in choosing the books they read.  

Read, read, read. 

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

  • Articles by Dr. J