Ever hear of the “summer slide”?

For years, educators have known that students loose reading skills during the summer if they don’t continue reading.  They call this loss the “summer slide.”  It is most severe among low-income students who lose up to two months of reading skills, yet it is sometimes nonexistent among middle class students who make slight gains in reading during summer months.
 
Summer slide (decline) of reading scores.
 
Here’s what some studies show:

  • B. Heyns’ 1978 study of 3000 sixth and seventh graders in Atlanta Public School showed that students who read at least six books during the summer maintained or improved their reading skills.  But students who didn’t read lost up to a whole grade of reading skills.
  • K Alexander’s, D. Entwisle’s and L. Olson’s 2007 longitudinal study of Baltimore students over 15 years found that by the end of fifth grade, students who didn’t read during the summer measured two years behind their classmates who did.  They concluded that 2/3 of the reading difference in ninth graders can be attributed to reading or not during summer school breaks.
  • Dominican University’s study of students completing third grade who took part in their local libraries’ summer reading programs scored 52 Lexile points ahead of their classmates who did not.
  • The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, funded by many foundations, concluded that children’s absence from reading during the summer is a major hurdle for achieving good reading skills by the end of third grade.
  • The summer slide is cumulative.  Some estimate that by the end of high school the summer slide can account for up to a four year lag in reading achievement, and it can have an effect on high school graduation rates.  According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “one in six children who are not reading proficiently in 3rd grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.”

So how can you combat the summer slide?

  • Sign your child up for your local library’s summer reading program, and make sure your child completes the reading.
  • Go to the library regularly and let your child select books she will enjoy.
  • Help your child to read a chapter book a week, or a picture book each night.
  • Encourage your child to read the newspaper, television guides, magazines and online articles.
  • Reward your child with a trip to the book store to select her very own book.
  • Read to your child every evening, and let him read to you.  Your reading will teach fluency and pronunciation, and establish the notion that reading for pleasure is fun.

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