Hooray for Summer Slide!

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infographic_summer-slideEvery child is glad when school is over, even those who love the academic life.

“No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s…”

WAIT A MINUTE! No more BOOKS? That’s crazy talk!

Summer reading is the most fun ever.

Admittedly, I am a reader. People like me regularly amass a stack of books each school year. That stack then takes up a significant amount of room in our suitcases when we pack for summer vacation. Beach reading time is that lose yourself in a book reading time during which you consume your own wonderful idleness, with one after another good reads from your portable book buffet.

However, let’s return to what I wrote above.

Now—right now—with school just ending, is when young readers are salivating about delicious amounts of free time up in the tree house or on the couch or traveling in the back seat, effectively all alone with their dreamy delicacies. It’s in those place they can devour the next book in a favored series, taste a new author recommended by a friend, savor the latest book in a favored genre and so on. Summertime ecstasy!

We readers slide into summer reading like we slide into the cool waters of a swimming pool or lake. That’s the kind of summer slide we should all work toward offering children, especially given the inarguably powerful benefits of reading and its value for boosting all kinds of achievement in the upcoming year[1].

Sadly, some kids get left behind in the summer book-blowout. Those youngsters also slide, but backward, academically. Non-readers suffer in measurable ways.

Non-readers are so for two reasons:

  1. They don’t have sufficient access to personally powerful books and so never get caught up in the magic of reading, or
  2. We adults have failed them, by focusing insufficient  support for them to learn how to find that perfect book.

While I’ve long been an advocate of teaching to the heart before teaching to the head, here are some powerful writings that have added fuel to my internal fire on this crucial matter:

  • One of my favorite blogs is from the Nerdy Book Club. This week’s topic just happened to be The Top 10 Authors my Students Read Everything By. Shana Karnes’ list is for 11th graders, but there are similar lists out there for every age group and interest. See your child’s librarian for guidance in finding the authors your kids can’t resist.
  • Another blog is The Top 10 Ideas to Promote Summer Reading. It was written for teachers, but there’s nothing here that active and involved moms and dads couldn’t incorporate into their parenting.
  • I’ve just been enjoying Jeff Wilhelm and Michael Smith’s study of adolescent readers’ motivations for reading[2]. The pleasure that comes from free book choice, casual book conversation and a reading-nurturing context are key, and the lessons here could be applied all up and down the grades.
  • I also mustn’t overlook the powerful book by Allington and McGill-Franzen on averting summer reading loss, Summer Reading. I recommend the interview with the author in the School Library Journal.

Kids are going to be sliding one way or the other this summer. Thankfully there are great resources to help teachers and parents give kids a wonderful nudge, sending them along the lovely slide to the rewards of summer reading.

[1] Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading: Insights from Research 2nd Edition. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

[2] Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read what they Want, by Jeffrey Wilhelm, Michael Smith and Sharon Fransen. This compact book from Scholastic (2014)


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4 Responses to “Hooray for Summer Slide!”

  1. Rachel Skrlac Lo June 1, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for another interesting and important post. I’d love to see what happens to kids from high income homes who don’t have access to books. Do you know this information? It’s important to remember that just because resources may be available, they are not necessary used.

    Also, what do you make of these tremendous gains from summer reading? What does it tell us about freedom to choose what and when and how we read? I am always floored by the plateau or decline in my kids test scores from fall to winter. Does this mean that I should homeschool my children since they make gains when they’re home with me?

    • Mark Condon June 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

      Great questions, Rachel! Like everyone else I have some responses to further our conversation, but nothing particularly authoritative.
      1. I’m convinced that high income children that don’t read lose ground over the summer. I return to my basketball metaphor. Kids who have shown promise but don’t play, see their sharpness decline and their skills get rusty. I don’t have a research citation for you, though.
      2. Having hundreds of books used as decorations and door stops do nothing for literacy.
      3. The books I have cited address your “what do you make of that” question.
      4. Home Schooling is a wonderful luxury that few parents can afford time-wise or handle personally. But it can be wonderful if it is a viable choice AND as part of the curriculum kids choose their own books, learn to love to read them, and are given plenty of time to do so.

  2. Rachel June 8, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your reply and offering some food for thought. Given that your next blog post is about diversity, I’d love to see a study that starts to wrestle with who we hold accountable and how. Taking my (and your) first point about who has data collected on their performance, how can we as researchers and educators challenge the status quo of who is counted and who counts? Why do we have statistics on the poorest demographics but not the wealthiest? I believe that we need to challenge these statistics and the way statistics are collected if we want to push against systemic and structural -isms. Please don’t misunderstand me, though. This isn’t directed at you but has evolved from your post (and reply).

    I am reminded of a piece by Anne Haas Dyson (sorry, I can’t recollect the complete citation) where she raises concerns that the lowest performers tend to be offered remedial instruction that is didactic and rote learning. This type of instruction often fails to ask students to become engaged readers but has the benefit of being easy to test (unlike the project-based instruction that dominates higher (and usually wealthier) performers). Dyson asks us to consider how literacy is framed for each demographic and challenges the reader to consider broader social implications of these polarized approaches to instruction.

    Connecting this to the infographic you shared, why are those who tend to have the least agency (in the classroom, in life in general) the ones who are most rigorously measured and assessed? How does this impact sense-of-self? What is the long-term consequence of living under the (data-collection) microscope?

    Thanks for reading/listening!

    • Mark Condon June 9, 2015 at 9:06 am #

      No! thank YOU for your thoughtful additions to my little efforts here.
      Dyson is pretty much always right-on in her advocacy for children. The deficit orientation of low performing children is alive and well, I’m sad to say. The need to fix what’s wrong or missing for kids completely ignores the immense energy and potential that strugglers bring to their own literacy development, if only we can bring ourselves to invite them to participate as active consumers of books and other reading material.
      Reading improves reading.
      Kids who are behind their age peers and have found books / authors / genres they love and are encouraged and given time to engage with those kinds of books, improve every day. Kids who have tons of instruction but no reading time are unlikely to make much progress.