So, I am getting on my soap box. Grab a seat, I’ve got lots to share. Today’s topic is the “Summer Slide.” Have you heard of it? Probably from your children’s teachers in the form of, “we need to prevent the summer slide” or “well, many kids slide over summer because they don’t read.” I have had this discussion with my students’ parents and other teachers at the schools I have taught in.
I have taught middle schools students and mentored reading to elementary school children for over four years. I am trained in a number of reading systems from Fountas and Pinnell to DRA to Scholastic Read 180 to the Rewards program and Project MORE, and all have benefits to struggling and reluctant readers. How do some of my kids get identified and end up in my care after the beginning of the school year? The summer slide. I’ve targeted some of my kiddos after they’ve taken their first MAP or SRI testing (for those of you unfamiliar, these are comprehension-based tests that give educators an indication where a child might be struggling – from vocabulary acquisition to finding story details). I’ll look at how they did on their end of year tests and talk to their previous year’s teacher to help me understand the student (test scores alone are simply an indicator…not a decision-maker…or at least should NOT be…ahem, soapbox).
What is the summer slide? It is when children have read all school year, and then do not read over the summer or experience educational “stuff.” Once they get to me in middle school it is very difficult to get them back into reading. It takes a teacher who truly cares about the child (building relationships is KEY) and also the willingness to allow choice. Now, during the summer kids have full reign over choice, and this is a key element (I’ve learned this from studying Penny Kittle and Donalyn Miller) to success. Children, especially reluctant readers, need choice or they won’t read. Plain and simple. Seriously, I’ve seen it so many times I can’t count it. Kids can pretend to read really well, and the smart ones know how to “Seek and Destroy” material (look at the question and figure out where the answer is based off of the titles of sections or names of chapters), and get A’s all while never really reading.
Once they get to high school and HAVE to read, it is bad news. College, even worse.
In elementary school kids who are behind in reading can be lost. It is very sad to see those one or two children who act like they don’t care just because they simply don’t get it. This can be an easy fix: read. Read to your children if they don’t like to read on their own – help them break down the story so they understand it. Don’t be afraid to let your child read below or above their level, of course watch material that may be too mature. And, most of all, be consistent. We read to our children every night before bed. My son even begs me to read him a page or two before he falls asleep on nights when he is ready to fall over.
I have already told my kids we are reading every day this summer. I take advantage of all materials I can get my hands on – books, apps, online, magazines, sticker books, pamphlets, instructions, math problems! I show them book trailers of books I think look like fun. Just search youtube! All of it is awesome! Yes, I totally dig letting my son read Captain Underpants in all its farting, poopy, underwear goodness – the books make him laugh and also make him excited to read. I am cultivating a love for reading in my children by also modeling it. I read in front of them. I take them to the library and just hang out. I write in front of them. I want them to see me working to be smarter and gain more understanding of the world around me so they end up doing the same.
My post about reading clubs offered during summer. This is a great way to reward your child for reading: Surround Your Child With Books This Summer
If you have a difficult time choosing books for kids to read, check out these sites that offer recommendations:
On a side note: I worry about the kiddos who do not speak English at home and my inner-city kiddos whose parents work three jobs just to support the family. Generally, they won’t read. They don’t find value in it or can’t get the help they need. Reading is not modeled for many of them. How can we assist those kids? Are there reading groups or tutoring available to those children at no cost during the summer? These are things I think about.