The people's voice of reason

Avoid The Summer Slide For Your Children

What has become called the “summer slide” takes its toll on our school-aged children. We all recall those sunny warm carefree days of summer when we were released from the confinement of school walls, classrooms, class schedule bells and the restraints of being restricted to that uncomfortable desk. No more rules, books, computers, homework, reading, exhausting examinations and getting up at the crack of dawn to be at school on time! It means freedom to play most all day, to go on family vacations, to go swimming and to do pretty much nothing of value. For many students of all ages summer means no learning which prepares them to become literate, knowledgeable and prepared for college or career.

While it is important that students be engaged in learning during the summer months, perhaps reading is the most important skill to stay on grade level and/or to excel so as to be prepared for the next higher grade level. Some students actually enjoy reading and willingly participate in a school or library sponsored summer reading program. Unfortunately, many if not most students avoid any supplemental reading in the summer. Often these students are already struggling students and need continuous reading in order to make some progress during the summer. The failure to participate in appropriate, high interest books and on the computer results in falling farther behind and, consequently achievement levels in all subjects continuously drop. Parents must accept the responsibility to insure their children have access to some reading program.

Though not all communities are richly blessed with free programs a large majority do offer free reading programs to include books, computer reading programs and relatively available high interest e-games with reading as the primary purpose. We know that not all parents grasp the importance of the impacts of the summer slide. However, most schools and local libraries send information to parents informing them of available opportunities relatively near them. It should be emphasized that all students can learn. Students with involved parents typically read on higher levels than parents who fail their children with little to no encouragement to apply themselves and take advantage of reading and math camps, programs and literature. The infamous “learning gap” is often attributed to poverty, social injustice and discrimination. However, upon a close examination, parental irresponsibility of insuring their children are enrolled in a summer learning program is a major factor in underachieving students in at-risk schools.

The American Library Association (ALA) offers some helpful information for summer reading initiatives. A document published by the ALA states: “An evaluation of summer reading programs in Los Angeles found that participating children [in reading programs] spent more time looking a and reading books than before they joined the program. During the summer, the percent of children reading 10 – 14 hours a week increased by nine percent and the proportions of children reading 15 or more hours a week rose by 11 percentage points.” Of those who participated in the reading programs 55% had a high enthusiasm for reading compared to less than 40% of non-participants.

The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) recognizes that those months away from school can result in loss of knowledge and reading ability. The ALSDE has a program called the “Summer Learning Challenge”. This program raises awareness of the school slide and shares the importance of personalized reading activities and provides access to a variety of free resources to support targeted reading and math summer learning.”

The President of a Canadian reading program called “ABC Life Literacy Canada,” Margaret Eaton says, “It’s important for parents to encourage children to read over the summer to keep their minds sharp. All it takes is 15 minutes a day of reading or engaging in fun literacy activity to keep the mind active.” Below are tips to encourage literacy and learning over the summer:

1. Be a reading role model. Children learn from their parents, so let them catch you reading.

2. Have your children create a map for your summer road trip and have them navigate signs and billboards.

3. Hunt for words. Use road signs and advertisement when traveling to have children learn new words.

4. Don’t forget to write. Have them write relatives brief letters along with pictures they draw. Also, have them write brief and

simple answers to describes key words in the text they just read.

5. Turn subtitles on during a family movie or age appropriate children’s movie. Have them read the subtitles aloud to you at times

during the movie.

6. Zoo outings and visits to museums and galleries can be fun and educational. Have your children read the names of the animals

and countries of origin. Be creative and keep it interesting.

7. Head to summer vacation with a book. Nowadays e-pads and e-games

contain stories of interest which require reading and often challenges for the children to the next level.

8. Make a delicious meal or dessert together and allow children to participate. Allow them to read the ingredients and directions.

9. Use board games to play as a family or with friends.

10. On a rainy day have your child surf the internet (supervised) for information on their hobbies and topics of interest.

Though we’re already into July it is not too late to seek and find a reading program or some reading material for your child. Not to do so is to contribute to the summer slide and the difficult effort of your child to catch up to their previous achievement level. Start with a call to your local library, to your child’s school and/or get online a find the free available resources. Then don’t accept “no” to your directive for your child to participate in a reading program. It has been said that one way to learn to become better reader is to read. No more summer slide.

David Nichols, ED. D., is a retired educator who continues to research and publish on vital issues facing our public schools. He served on two local school boards in Alabama. He served as a teacher, leader and consultant at every level from k – 12 through universities. His publications include four books, several school safety response manuals, dozens of journal articles and opinion pieces in newspapers in Alabama. He is also a law veteran law enforcement administrator, criminal justice instructor, and consultant to municipal and higher education law enforcement/security organizations.


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