Danger Ahead: Summer Learning Loss
It’s critical that we do everything possible to protect children from summer’s dangers. I’m not talking about sunburn or poison ivy; I’m talking about the very real threat of summer learning loss. Known as summer slide, this generally refers to the two to three months of learning kids lose during the lazy days of summer. Numerous studies indicate that kids who don’t read regularly over the summer fall an average of two months behind, and that children from lower-income homes are most at risk.
Perhaps most alarmingly, summer learning loss compounds. A recent Washington Post article describes this “double jeopardy.” By third grade, kids are not just learning to read; they are reading to learn, so students who are already behind in reading skills start falling behind in other subjects that require reading to build content knowledge and conduct research.
Summer slide means that by fifth grade, children can be 2.5 years behind.
The good news is that there’s an easy fix: Kids who read for an hour or so every day can avoid summer slide and even return to school better readers than when they left in June.
But it’s not enough to tell kids they need to read a lot over the summer. Kids need to leave school authentically motivated to read, and, as adults, we need to support their learning as much in the summer as we do during the school year. Studies, including one by Reading Is Fundamental, indicate that kids read the most — and gain the most — when they have access to high-quality books and the freedom to choose what they read. At Success Academy, we give kids one to three books to take home over the summer as well as an extensive list of recommended books that they can take to the bookstore or library. Our older scholars will also take iPads home with them during vacation, so they can access the Success Academy Digital Library, which includes a mix of classics by Jane Austen and Jack London, contemporary hits by James Dashner and Marissa Meyer, and lots of nonfiction.
Kids need to leave school authentically motivated to read, and, as adults, we need to support their learning as much in the summer as we do during the school year.
Our teachers and school leaders work with families and scholars to make sure they know how to take advantage of the resources available to them over the summer. Here are some of the strategies we use to set kids up for a summer of reading:
- Make sure kids have a public library card and a regular routine of visiting the library to check out books.
- Encourage kids to participate in summer reading programs. Nearly every library, bookstore, and community program will have one, many with book chats that are especially fun for pre-teens and teens.
- Teachers work with each child to develop personalized summer reading goals, such as trying an unfamiliar genre or doing an author deep dive to read many books by a favorite writer.
- Encourage every child to complete an “I Want To Read” list, composed of recommendations from friends, before school ends.
- Invite kids to talk about their favorite books before the summer, with a reading partner, in a small group, or to the whole class. Some teachers invite avid readers from the grade above to book-talk their favorite summer reading. At least one of our schools is having a few scholars record messages with book recommendations to send out over the summer.
There are dozens of creative ways to make sure kids are authentically motivated to read voluminously over the summer. It’s incredibly important that we understand the dangers of summer slide – but even more important that we take practical, immediate steps to combat it.
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