Summer Literacy Strategies: High School

-9 tips and tools to keep your high school student engaged in learning all summer long -

High school students have packed schedules in the summer. Between part-time jobs, sports, parties, family vacation, and time with friends, most teens take advantage of every sun soaked moment. As parents, it’s tempting to just let your child run carefree during the summer months: childhood is brief, right? While of course this is true, and free time is vital to development, it’s also important for parents to be aware of the summer slide. Research shows that students lose up to two months of curriculum content over the summer, and teachers often spend weeks re-teaching lessons from the previous grade level. Kids also tend to perform better on standardized tests in the beginning of the summer than at the end of the summer. By high school, your child’s standardized test scores and GPA become important factors in their future, and literacy becomes particularly important to performing well on exams and keeping up with readings. So the question becomes: how can parents help their teens avoid the summer literacy slide by retaining — and even building upon — the literacy skills they learned in school? It can be done without ruining your child’s summer: just check out these tips and activities for blending literacy practice with engaging, exciting summer fun.

1. Encourage your student to sign up for Goodreads

For the teen who is “too mature” to sign up for your local library’s summer reading programs (although they should, because some libraries offer special YA lit package incentives!) literary social media sites like Goodreads are a great platform to track your reading, share your thoughts about books — thereby practicing writing skills — and find new books to read in the future. Some high schools even use Goodreads for grading and communication purposes, so your teens might already be familiar with it. Encourage them to use the site for personal use and fun: they might discover some great books, and will definitely find a wonderful literary community!

2. Suggest starting an Instagram account or blog to document their summer reading journey

Literary-specific sites are not the only platforms to share reading experiences. Instagram is full of young readers, posting artsy pictures of their favorite books, making recommendations, and connecting with other readers across the world. Literary blogs function the same way: for a generation fluent in the art of digital communication, parents should take advantage of the opportunities available on social media, and encourage their teens to incorporate their reading experiences with their social experiences. It’s an exciting new way for young readers to share their passion for literature, and inspire others!

3. Prep for SAT/ACT

Very few teens want to spend their summer vacation preparing for college entrance exams, but at this stage in the game, this is often the kind of literacy building that needs to take place. To help your teen get motivated, make interactive and quick study activities that don’t eat up too much of their day, but work efficiently. Flashcards, prep books, or — for the social student — library study groups are all great ways to start building the content knowledge that your student needs to be successful on the standardized tests that determine their college acceptance and scholarships. Be careful not to overwhelm your teen with prep, that’s a quick way to zap motivation. Instead, make studying a quick and efficient routine that might sometimes even be a little fun.

4. Host a teen trivia night or book club

Keeping your high schooler locked away in the house all day away from friends just isn’t going to happen. So instead, take advantage of your child’s social life. Hosting a teen trivia night at your house will get your more competitive kids — and their friends — motivated to study for college entrance exams (without even knowing that they’re studying!). For talkative or introspective teens, try hosting a teen book club at your house. You could introduce books that were made into movies, and hold a movie night when the kids are finished with the book. Or, for music lovers, suggest that the teen members come up with playlists or write songs to correspond with the novels they read. It will be a lot of work to manage so many excited learners at once, but your teens will thank you later!

5. Encourage your teen to tutor a younger child

One of the best ways to learn is to teach. Many parents of elementary or middle school kids are often looking for a high school student to tutor their child in a difficult subject. Sometimes parents feel uncomfortable teaching the subject themselves, or feel that their child would respond better to an outside influence — especially a cool older kid. So encourage your teens to seek out tutoring positions in a subject that interests them. They will gain a unique understanding of any subject when forced to break it down into comprehensive steps. They might also gain a new sense of responsibility and self that comes from mentorship.

6. Challenge your teen to a reading list that focuses on content, not quantity

Finding a summer reading list is always a great way to kick off a summer reading experience. For younger children or struggling readers, the sense of achievement at the end of a summer reading program often comes from the quantity of books read- which is great, but your teen can go a step further. Find a list of summer reading books that will challenge your high school student in their content, not the amount of books involved. A content challenge can come in many different forms: it might simply have to do with the difficulty of the prose, like a select few of these essential classics to sharpen reading and writing skills. It can also mean challenging your child to venture into new territory in terms of unfamiliar cultures and voices. Try a list of books with powerful female protagonists or some that feature culturally diverse narratives. Even explore new media with masterful YA graphic novels, like Gene Lueng Yang’s “American Born Chinese” or Cece Bell’s “El Deafo”. Literature is about sharing experiences through words: challenge your teens to open their minds to the stories of those voices.

7. Help them incorporate writing into their daily lives

Beyond building reading skills, high school is the beginning of the time where students should be developing their own voices, academically and creatively. Help your child begin to foster a love for writing and incorporate it into their daily lives by providing them with a peaceful and private space to write. If they respond positively, encourage them to enter their writing into scholarship or academic contests. You can also research summer writing programs to really give your teen an immersive writing experience. Of course, you can’t force a love for writing, so never push your child to the point where they resent the activity. Follow their interests and support them along the way.

8. Download fun educational apps

Since you know your teen will be knee-deep into the internet all summer, why not put some educational apps on that precious phone? We offer research-based, effective learning programs in the form of convenient apps, available for both iPod and iPad. College readiness program Words to Know Before You Go is the perfect vocab practice platform for any student getting ready to take college entrance exams.

9. Be an active reader yourself

One of the greatest ways to motivate your child to read is to read the same books and talk about them. If you’ve been doing this since elementary school, kudos! You probably already have a great reading relationship with your teen. If not, don’t worry- it’s not too late! You can always pick up a book that your child is reading, or has read, and strike up a conversation about the characters. (Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with YA lit, many adults do!) Reading with your student will open your eyes to the stories and voices of today’s teens, the struggles they face, and might even help you discover something about your child — or yourself! — that you never knew before.

For more summer literacy boosting resources and information about the summer slide, visit: