Summertime brings with it long lazy days at the beach, hot fudge sundaes and ice cream cones, baseball games and BBQs.
Forgotten are the days of getting up early, studying for tests, writing papers, and for many children, reading. As books and writing settle naturally to the back of children’s minds over vacation, so too does their education.
According to studies done by the John Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning, all students experience summer learning loss when they are not engaged in educational activities. In some cases, children score lower on standardized tests given at the end of the summer than on the same test given at the end of the school year. This loss of skills is often referred to as the “Summer Slide.”
One of the best ways to combat the effects of the Summer Slide is to read with your children. It helps keep their reading skills from slipping and can even improve them. In “Bridging the Summer Reading Gap”, University of Florida professors Anne McGill-Franzen and Richard Allington state that “children who read as few as six books over the summer maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year. When children are provided with 10 to 20 self-selected children’s books at the end of the regular school year, as many as 50 percent not only maintain their skills, but actually make reading gains.”
This is encouraging news. We all know that summer vacation is a welcome break from the constant go, go, go of the school year. But, if we can encourage our children to read as few as six books during the summer, they have a better chance of keeping up in school in the fall.
Here are some ways to slip learning into your child’s summer life without taking away from trips to the beach or hanging out with friends:
Let your children choose their own books. Whether they’re reading on their own or you’re reading to them, let them choose. If your child is interested in what is being read, he or she is more likely to read more often. And that can help summer reading transform from a chore to a pleasure. There are books on absolutely every topic you can imagine. Does she like frogs? Does he like gardening? ATVs? Lizards? Wizards? Explorers? Yes, there are books on them all.
Read for 20 minutes each day with your kids. Pull your little ones next to you and be prepared to read favorites over and over again. Children love repetition. And while you may think you are off the hook with your older kids, think again. An elementary school librarian recently told me that she gave her sixth graders a survey about reading and found—to her delight—that they still wanted their parents to read aloud to them.
Try reading aloud a chapter a day of an engaging novel with your older child. Even if he or she is adamant about reading alone, you can still grab a book, newspaper or magazine and sit down in the same room and get in those 20 minutes of reading time together. Modeling good reading behavior can help your children understand that books are really enjoyable—not just work.
Visit your local library. If you don’t have any books, magazines, or newspapers at home visit your local library and check some out for free. They have magazines, newspapers, comic books, graphic novels and audio books. Most libraries also have summer reading programs in which your children can win prizes for reading.
Find a special place to read. Summertime is a great time to be outside. Finding a fun, special place to read with your children—or encouraging them to find their own special places—can help adventures come alive. How about that hammock or that great climbing tree with comfortable branches in your backyard? Maybe they can hide under the covers at night and read by flashlight.
Listening to books makes stories fun too. Do you have a road trip planned this summer? Audio books are a treasure on long car rides. They are entertaining and can be great conversation starters when you’re stuck behind the wheel. You can check these out at your local library, too.
When you make reading a part of your family’s summer lifestyle, it becomes just as important as that celebratory ice cream cone after the victory on the baseball field or just as fun as that everlasting day at the beach. And, while both of these events create exciting and unforgettable memories, reading is a lifelong habit that will help boost your child’s future success in school and in life. Happy Reading!