School’s Out For Summer! That Doesn’t Mean Learning Should Stop. Help Prevent the “Summer Slide.”

“Summer slide” is the name given to the regression in learning that many students experience over the summer. The achievement damage resulting from a lack of academic activity that occurs during the summer months may go by other names, such as “summer loss,” “summer learning loss,” or “summer learning regression.” The name you give it doesn’t matter. Acknowledging that it exists and then actively doing something about it is what matters.

Every summer, we have students (and often, families of students) regressing because they are not actively involved in some type of worthwhile academic activity over the summer. What is more disheartening, summer slide has been shown to more negatively impact disadvantaged communities. In fact, some researchers decry summer slide as a contributing factor to the widening achievement gap between the rich and the poor.

The education of our students occurs around an agrarian calendar. Almost always has. Knowing that change in education (and changing the education system itself) is very hard, year round schooling is probably not a valid option at this point in time. However, we need not despair! According to many researchers, reading is essential for curtailing summer slide. Some research has shown that reading just six books (“just right books”) may help prevent regression. Other researchers suggest that providing students with opportunities to read something everyday (morning = newspaper; daytime = schedules, magazines, online articles, etc.; night = book, graphic novel) will do the trick. In addition, researchers have found that reading aloud over the summer is extremely important.

Whatever certain researchers may say/suggest, it seems clear that reading over the summer is important and may help prevent summer slide. This sounds like a forgone conclusion. However, as usual, this also sounds easier said than done. As just one example of a barrier that parents lament in response to their role in preventing summer slide, I know parents work over the summer (or have other obligations) and may not be able to partake in a family read aloud or help ensure that their child is reading everyday. However, if preventing summer slide is a priority (which I believe it should be), parents will find a way to help their children prevent learning regression over the summer. I heard a quote today from a fellow administrator/colleague that I really liked. She said (not verbatim), “Show me your calendar or your checkbook (account statement for those of us in the digital age) and I’ll be able to tell you what your priorities are with a fairly significant degree of accuracy.” Point being, if you make it a priority, it will happen.

There are so many community resources out there to help parents in this endeavor. Community libraries are always a huge resource over the summer. Many libraries have camps/programs that are dedicated to preventing summer slide. I’ve also read about “neighborhood read alouds,” where parents team up to help ensure reading is occurring in the community over the summer. I just saw an article about a program that invited kids to the local animal rescue so they could read to the animals (reading aloud). Parents, over the summer it’s up to you. Make it happen!

Have a safe and restful summer break full of reading (or other academic pursuits)!

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