Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Side Stepping the Summer Slide: How to keep kids reading once the school year ends

Ahh…summer.  Trips to the beach, nights catching fireflies, BBQs and ice cream cones, and… the “summer slide”?!  This catchy phrase describes the inevitable back slide in academic achievement students experience each summer. A regression that the National Summer Learning Association has conservatively estimated to be equivalent to about 2 months of what they learned during the previous school year!  Fortunately, one of our best defenses to defeating the slide is to keep our children reading throughout the summer.
4 Suggestions to combat the “summer slide” and to keep your child reading during the summer:
                READ FOR FUN
Children spend nine months of the year focused on the technical aspects of reading. Summer is the perfect time to highlight the enjoyable side of reading.  Allow your child to read multiple stories simultaneously, revisit a favorite over and over again, or devour an easier book purely for the enjoyment of the story. Stay up late reading under the stars, in a tent, or under the sheets with a flashlight. Spend the whole of a rainy day curled up with a good book, and be OK with relegating reading to bedtime during a spectacular day. Allow your child’s interests to inform book choices- whether it’s ancient Egypt, princesses or earth worms. 

While board books, picture books and chapter books are fantastic and should be promoted at any opportunity, embrace reading in all of its forms. Books on tape are perfect for road trips, and magazines and comics are quick, enjoyable and highly motivating reads.  Pour through cook books with your children – The Barefoot Contessa and Ronald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes are equally good choices.  Even the TV with close captioning on and the volume off is a way to promote reading!

                TAP YOUR RESOURCES
Take advantage of the programs offered at your local library and book store.  Many offer story time, frequent readers programs, author visits and more. Even the act of browsing the shelves is an activity!  The air conditioning alone should provide plenty of incentive to pepper your child’s summer vacation with regular trips to the library and books store.

                THINK THEMATICALLY
Weave books into the fabric of your daily life. Read Mouse Paint and follow up with an afternoon of finger painting and color exploration. Explore the Boston Common with a copy of Make Way for Ducklings, picking out familiar landmarks from Robert McCloskey’s delightful illustrations. Read Diary of a Worm and go on a post-rain search for earthworms or Compost Stew and start a compost pile with your children. Read Holes or The Chronicles of Narnia, then watch the movie and compare. Going on a trip? Prepare by reading books that take place in that area, or focus on the landmarks or sites.

Children (and parents!) work too hard during the school year to allow 22% of it to dissipate during the summer.  Instead of drills and flash cards, come up with creative ways to make reading a part of your daily activities to encourage kids to participate and even learn to like reading. In September, your child will return to school tanned, refreshed, and exactly where they were the previous year (if not ahead!).


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