The Summer Slide  

April 04, 2014
It is hard to believe but summer is right around the corner. People are thinking of summer plans and activities. Students are thinking about no school. They can just pick up where they were in the spring when they return in the fall, right? Unfortunately that is not what research tells us. What happens instead is called the “summer slide”. The summer slide occurs when students are not involved in activities that use skills they have learned during the school year. How much students “slide” back depends on a lot of factors but it creates a problem for many students. Schools and parents both need to be involved to help reduce or eliminate the problem.

The Problem
 
While all students experience learning losses when they are not involved with educational activities, some students show more loss than others. The average is 2.6 months in the area of math computation, but statistics look a little different for reading. Middle income students and upper income students may actually show slight gains in reading over the summer but low-income students lose an average of two or more month’s achievement in the area of reading. These students are likely to be the same students who were struggling in reading during the school year. This means that they are even further behind when they come back in the fall. This all adds up. If a student loses two months of reading every summer and never makes that two months up, they would be two years behind when they start high school. One research group identified this “summer slide” as being one of the three biggest obstacles to reading proficiency at the end of 3rd grade. The other two were being ready for kindergarten and chronic absenteeism in early grades.

What Can You Do?

Whether you are a teacher, parent, or just someone who has a relationship with a school age child, there are things that you can do to help reduce or eliminate this decline in skills.

Schools and Teachers

Different reading groups list summer reading programs as being a common response to the “summer slide”. If your school is able to do this, there are some points to keep in mind.

   •It will be the most successful if it occurs over several years. Have summer school only for the purpose of helping students perform well on a specific test produce only short term growth. Consider working with other programs or agencies in the community to get the most from everyone’s efforts.

   •Some schools have developed partnerships with other camps to help them incorporate reading and writing into camp activities.     
   •Consider any summer activity your students are involved with over the summer.

The other area in which schools can help is in providing families with information and support about family literacy. Some of the factors that have been identified as affecting family literacy include:

   •Having an established sense of community between the school and family members.
   •Having ongoing and varied communication between home and school
   •Recruiting families to be involved with school and school events and providing families an opportunity to interact with one another   as parents
   •Providing families with information about reading and literacy with concrete suggestions about what they can do to help their child
   •School staff demonstrating understanding of the different challenges being faced by individual families

Parents

   •Take advantage of any reading or summer school programs available in your community.
   •Talk to your child’s teacher about things that you can do with them over the summer. Work with the teacher to come up with a list of things you think you can follow through with and that are fun. Maintaining skills over the summer does not need to be an extension of what your child does in school
   •Talk with your child about setting some goals for the summer. This can be reading books, writing letters, looking for information about things they are interested in, or even reading to younger children.
   •Provide your child with opportunities to hear books being read. This can be time with you or time listening to recorded books.            
   •When possible, have a book available that your child can follow along in. Stop and talk about the story or information as well as any new vocabulary that might be in the book. Don’t forget nonfiction books. Some students enjoy books with information in them more than books that are stories.
   •Make printed materials accessible to your child. This means all printed materials. Have materials in the car, in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom. The more time they spend around printed material and the more accessible it is, the more likely they are to interact with it.

Communicate to your child that reading is important. Talk about different types of reading and encourage your child to find information instead giving them the information. Set an example by letting your child see you read even if it is directions or a manual.

Need more ideas?  Here are some websites that have excellent ideas for summer reading activities.  Just search “summer” or “summer slide” on their website:
http://www.readingrockets.org/
www.rif.org
www.pbs.org (click on parents or kids before you search)
-by Jennifer Rumery, ESU 10 School Psychologist