By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the editorial team
For me, “summer reading” truly represented the best of times!
I was blessed to grow up in a house with a family that made time each day for us to read. In our small town, the book mobile made monthly visits and my friends, and I would wait an hour for the library on wheels to arrival. I always lover books, so “summer reading” was a way of life rather than a chore. I not only loved the words on the page but most importantly the illustrations and would often select my books based on the beautiful images.
Nowadays children can go to the public library to check out books or sit and read. However, for many kids, the situation is different, and reading is not all that fun, so the “summer slide” starts to creep in and is proof of the absence summer reading among students.
Help prevent summer reading loss by finding out why it happens and encouraging family literacy while kids are at home for the summer. Just like exercising keeps muscles in shape, reading keeps the brain in shape. If you don't exercise, you lose muscle, and if you don't read, you will lose literacy skills. According to TheJournal.com, “Most reading experts suggest at least 20 minutes of reading per day. Those students who commit to even this minimum daily activity see an increase in reading achievement.”.
Here are three common reasons—and how teachers can combat them now, before locking their classroom doors for the summer.
REASON 1: “Reading is boring”
Although external motivation shouldn’t become a crutch to encourage kids to read, for competitive students, reading contests can be positive. Progress should be tracked in minutes, with a reasonable daily goal (e.g., 15–30 minutes). Class websites or (for older students) Facebook pages allow students to track their progress and talk to each other about books during the summer. Alternatively, instead of a class contest, take advantage of any summer reading programs offered by your public library. Library programs often require kids to read for a set length of time to cross off a symbol on their chart, with prizes offered as students reach various levels. By making reading a game, students can rediscover the fun!
REASON 2: “I don’t like reading”
Students who don’t like (or think they don’t like) reading can often be motivated to read about a topic they’re passionate about. After spending the past year with your students, you have a pretty good idea of their interests, so use what you know to recommend books they’d enjoy. Even better, recommend an author or series, which gives kids a list of books to grab once they’ve finished the first one.
Another unique method to spark children’s interest in a new topic is to take the class on a “curiosity walk”, whether it be around the playground or through a nearby park or neighborhood (bear in mind safety concerns). On the walk, have them write down at least three things they see that they want to learn more about. Then, take a class field trip to the library, and show them how to use the library to find books about that topic. As a bonus, an excursion on a warm spring day can help to cure the “end-of-year-wiggles” while promoting outdoor activities and exercise!
REASON 3: “I don’t have any books”
Some families can’t afford to keep their shelves stocked with books. According to Susan Neuman and David Dickinson’s Handbook of Early Literacy Research, the book-to-child ratio for middle-class families is 13:1, but for low-income families, "the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children." Even public libraries can’t always bridge the gap because working parents may not have the time or capability to take their kids to the library . . . and that’s assuming there is one to take them to. According to 2015 U.S. Department of Education data, 2.5 million U.S. students are enrolled in districts with no libraries, and 13 million are enrolled in districts where the available children’s materials circulation is less than 10 per student.
Team up with other parents to build a strong, supportive summer reading network, says Webber-Bey. You might discover a fun and creative way to keep your kids’ reading during this time. Whether it’s through a virtual book club, a book pen pal (your child can write letters or emails about what they’re reading), or something as simple as a phone call with a classmate to discuss a book they’re both devouring.
Another fun way to give students access to books (without singling out low-income students) is through an end-of-year school-wide book swap. Even students with plenty of books at home will enjoy the chance to trade their old books for new and exciting ones, and a swap lets kids talk about their favorite books to their friends—what better way to get them excited about literature?
What are your favorite ways to keep your students reading over the summer?
Simple Steps To Help Students Avoid the Summer Slide -- THE Journal