Stop the summer slide with one simple solution

As the last tendrils of winter loosen their grasp and spring showers pave the way for summer blossoms, the literacy consultants at Area Education Agency 267 begin to hear a common question, “What can my students do to avoid the summer slide?”

While the notion of a summer slide might conjure up images of brightly colored playgrounds with curvy tubed slides, this “summer slide” actually refers to the loss of academic gains made during the previous school year. Sadly, the most impacted students tend to be those from low income families; those that are already at a disadvantage when it comes to achieving their full potential.

According to education expert Richard Allington, summer slide accounts for as much as 85 percent of the reading achievement gap between lower income students and their middle to upper income peers. Additionally, teachers may spend more time at the beginning of the school year re-teaching previously covered material and strategies that were forgotten or under used over the summer. This delays the teaching of new material, putting a strain on the already limited teaching time needed to teach the rigorous content of the Iowa Core Standards.

While it may seem like a complex problem, the solution to summer slide is surprisingly simple. Read! Children of all ages need to read over the summer. There is no need for special programs, workbooks, or fancy flashcards. A library card with regular trips to the colorful shelves of the public library can do the trick. According to the Journal of Education for Students at Risk, regardless of ethnicity, income level, or previous achievement, children who read four or more books over the summer do better on fall reading comprehension measures than their peers who read one or no books.

This theory makes sense. Think of the world’s great athletes or musicians. They spend countless hours practicing their sport or instrument. If they were to take a few months off, they too would fall behind their peers. The same is true for reading. Children must consistently use their reading “muscles” over the summer to keep them in shape. Additionally, spending time listening to your child read as well as talking about what they are reading has an impact on comprehension and their motivation to read. Quick book chats can make all the difference in sustaining a summer of reading.

Many area public libraries have summer reading programs to encourage and support summer reading. If ebooks are more appealing, students and parents can access a vast digital library through MackinVia, an online resource supported by Area Education Agency 267. The high quality ebooks are sorted by grade level and are completely free. For more information go to http://aea267.iwanttoread.org/elem, or www.mackinvia.com. Many area schools utilize MackinVia in their classrooms, so children may already have a “backpack” of books at their fingertips. Access to this resource can be gained by contacting your child’s school library media specialist or principal.

A summer of reading can keep the summer slide where it belongs … on the playground!


Patty Foster is a consultant for reading/language arts with Area Education Agency 267. She can be reached at (319) 268-7634 or (800) 542-8375 or pfoster@aea267.k12.ia.us.