Public schools in the U.S. on a traditional schedule are closing for the summer, with buses making their final run full of chattering children, excited to be finished with the school game for a few months. But unfortunately, this also is often the first day of the Summer Slide, the path taken by way too many children who instead of continuing to move forward in their literacy, stop their free reading and regress in sharpness and focus. Basically, the slide comes from the lack of daily, self-directed reading that fortunate students have been invited to engage in each day in school.
Like every other delightful thing we do and wish to do well, reading and writing are only as good as our practice supports. We all play the way we practice, and few games, including literacy, isn’t won on luck.
During summer break, youngsters are unleashed to set their own reading times, to live out the license to read for as long or as short as they might wish on any given day. And adults can support children to continue reading during the summer in a few simple ways.
To continue reading and growing during Summer break, children need:
Books! Obvious? Yes, but the many children who live in book deserts (zoom in to see your own community) are likely to suffer from the lack of reading material available to them. One fabulous book resource is a public library and its extensions, such as bookmobiles and online reading apps.
Time! Kids need unstructured time into which a pile of books, read just for fun and enjoyment, can be nicely inserted. When crafting a summer scheduling for their children, families will do well to allow for lots of free time in their kids’ days for reading and other self-directed play.
A Culture of Book Reading! Excellent athletes don’t stop working out when the season is over. They continue to pump iron and work on their strengths and weaknesses with year-round supportive people as resources. Summer reading can be like that for kids. Reading “workouts” can continue through the off season when books are offered by librarians and chosen by the readers. In this way, Summer Slide can be turned into Summer Glide. Reading is done for fun, not for competition or to please someone else. So, the benefits of enjoying a book are accrued not merely from hard work, but from joyful engagement.
Given engaging books and time, children will return to school next year in full stride, glowing from time outdoors and excited to share what books they read over the summer.
The reading game never needs to end.