Keeping School in View: Avoiding the Summer Slide, Part 1

Posted on 07/14/2021

From coast to coast, students experience something called the "summer slide," losing approximately 2 months' worth of progress over the summer months. And we mean literally from East to West: check out this infographic from Rhode Island and the "Summer Matters" initiative out in California. If you think this phenomenon is not a big deal, think again: it actually accounts for ⅔ of the achievement gap for those in their first year of high school. With all the change-ups and online learning of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, many educators are seeing even more significant gaps, making it even more important for parents to intervene and help their children avoid losing ground. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to skip out on beach days and amusement parks and other forms of summer fun. In fact, short sessions and game-based learning and review might actually help your child more than nose-to-the-grindstone-level studies. So what can you do to help your child (painlessly) avoid the "summer slide"?

Understanding the Summer Slide

Before we get into the how-to part of the equation, let's consider more effects of a lack of learning opportunities and the related summer academic regression. While it's particularly marked for children from low-income families, this phenomenon can affect any child. The cumulative effect equates to nearly 3 grade levels by the end of grade 5. This ends up contributing to these students' likelihood to not graduate from high school and enter college. But the effects aren't simply academic: most children also experience pronounced weight gain, due to the combination of lack of physical activity and more unhealthy food. Of course, overall health and nutrition contributes to the ability to learn as well.

Avoiding the Summer Slide for Reading

Summer reading programs aren't just ways for librarians to find things to do - they serve a real purpose! Incentivizing reading is something other organizations are getting in on as well: from Half-Price Books to Showcase Cinemas, there are multiple summer reading programs for which you can sign up your child - and you don't have to choose just one. From free movie tickets to free food or discounts on books, your child can get a lot of loot just for reading for 30 minutes or less each day.

For struggling readers, did you know that audio books totally count, too? You still want your children to practice reading decodable books on their current level, but maybe after each short book or chapter that they read aloud, you could reward them with a certain amount of time to listen to a more exciting story. (Librivox is a free resource for audio books, as is Hoopla, which you can access through your local library. And here's a great list of the best narrators of children's books on Librixox.

We'll look at some ways to avoid the summer slide in other areas as well as how to help a struggling reader in our future posts in this series.

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