What is the Summer Literacy Slide, and What Can We Do About It?
In the weeks leading up to summer vacation, almost every student looks forward to a few months of sunshine, outdoor play, and freedom from tests, desks, and classrooms. But this freedom can come at a price: according to a Johns Hopkins study, students can lose up to two months of reading and math knowledge, and in the following school year, teachers can spend 4 to 6 weeks re-teaching these concepts. Students also tend to score much lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than on tests taken at the beginning of the summer. The issue is clear: once they are out of the classroom, kids are intellectually challenged less frequently, and much of the curriculum content that they absorbed during the school year begins to slip away. It’s a problem that parents and teachers face every year: how do we get kids to not only retain what they learned from the previous year, but, ideally, to keep exploring, discovering, and obtaining knowledge? Fortunately, there is one tool that offers up an engaging way to level out the summer slide while ensuring that your kids have an amazing summer: literacy building!
Literacy, is, of course, a vital tool for all children to grow into successful adults. As literacy expert Doug Fisher discusses, literacy is a gateway skill and the foundation to educational success.
However, during the summer months, children’s engagement and exposure to literacy building tools- like literature and reading fluency practice- often declines, causing setbacks in their literacy building progress. Educational professionals are working to combat the summer slide by providing families with the resources they need to keep their children actively maintaining and even building literacy skills. Since children are no longer in the classroom, much of this effort must come from families and communities: library programs, fun summer family activities, and at-home reading logs are efficient and exciting ways for parents to keep education going through the summer. In practice, literacy building comes down to two elements: literature and fluency.
Literature is the ultimate teacher: reading allows children to build reading fluency and vocabulary, exposes them to new ideas or voices, and challenges them to think critically and ask questions. For some children, fluency has already been well enough established that consistently reading will maintain and sharpen their skills. But for beginning or struggling readers, avoiding the summer slide takes a little more practice. Reading fluency is made up of two parts: speed and accuracy. In order for students to keep up with textbook readings, score well on standardized tests, and feel confident in their reading abilities, they need to be able to read quickly and accurately. In school, children encounter a number of fluency building strategies, including sight words, blending, concept sorts, and choral reading. And while most parents aren’t trained literacy experts- and most kids aren’t overly interested in sitting through structured summer classes- it is vitally important that parents do the best they can to help their kids keep practicing the strategies they learned during the school year. These practice sessions can even take place outside or in the form of a game. Take advantage of our interactive apps on iTunes or check out our Summer Literacy Pinterest Board for ideas on how to incorporate crucial reading fluency practice time into your child’s summer fun. Now is the time to try something new: all of our Word and Grammar Wonderland apps are free for iPad for the month of August!
The summer literacy gap can be intimidating: many parents work over the summer, and the idea of becoming a full-time educator to your child can seem overwhelming. But our teams have gathered plenty of resources and strategies that empower parents and students to tackle that slide head-on, and even take advantage of the summer months to explore new educational avenues. So, this summer, enroll your kids in your local library’s reading program, take time to practice fluency, and maybe even pick up a children’s or YA lit book yourself: you never know what you might discover.
For more summer literacy boosting resources and information about the summer slide, visit:
- Reversing the Slide: Evidence-based curriculum programs ready teachers to reduce learning loss
- Reinventing the Summer School Experience: 6 Ways to Propel Academic Growth
- You can also read McGraw-Hill Education contributing author Tim Shanahan’s article “Can We Prevent the Summer Slide in Reading?” on how the summer slide affects disadvantaged students.