Chances are that you have heard about “summer slide”. This is the term used to refer to children losing skills over the summer when they are not in school. And it is particularly likely to happen to children who were already struggling. In fact, children can lose several months of reading skills over the summer.
This makes sense if you think about school skills as “muscles” that get lots of exercise over the school year. But, like all muscles, if you stop exercising them for a couple of months (like over summer break), they get soft and flabby and may lose all the gains that they made while you were exercising them.
The good news is that if you don’t stop exercising those muscles, they won’t lose their strength. So what is one of the best ways for children to keep exercising their “school muscles”?
Studies show that when children, especially those who might have a harder time with school for various reasons, have access to books during the summer, they make bigger gains than kids who don’t read or kids who read but were not having difficulties. Scholastic.com points out that reading even 6 books during the summer can keep children who struggle with reading from losing valuable skills.
So how can you make this “summer exercise” fun?
- Join a summer reading program. Book companies and libraries often have summer reading challenges that reward your child with free books for reading over the summer. About.com has a list of reading challenges across the nation. Or check out your local library. Most have summer programs.
- Challenge your children to a “summer read off”. Your child is not the only one who can benefit from reading. It helps adult brains as well. So challenge your child to a contest to see who can read the most books. Or who can read the most books about insects. Or any other challenge that you can think of. Here’s a list of summer reads for children and their parents to get you started.
- Read aloud to your child once a day. If you have older children, they can also read to you sometimes. And if you don’t like to read? Check out our suggestions to help parents who aren’t that fond of reading themselves.
- See how many different kinds of reading materials your child can find. Books, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, poems, cereal boxes, bulk mail flyers, Wikipedia entries. Ask your child to find something new to read every day. All reading counts!
- Pick weekly reading themes. You could have a shark week, a zombie week, a horse week and so on. Let your child help you plan the themes. He is more likely to read if he gets to pick the topic. And then you can see how many different types of reading materials about each theme you can find!
When you are searching for summer reading, let your child choose what interests her so she will be more likely to read the materials. Check that the material is neither too easy nor too hard for your child to read so that he gets the most out of the exercise. And, above all, make it fun! Challenges, games, races, read offs, even joke books can all help stop the summer slide.
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