Lemonade and Literacy: 4 Ways to Beat the Summer Reading Slide


May is a time for celebrations: school graduations, job promotions, Memorial Day, Haitian Flag Day, Mother’s Day. It also is an ideal time to prepare for summer enrichment and the upcoming school year. If your child is completing 6th or 7th grade this year, we offer personalized workshops to prepare you for the high school application process. In this article, I discuss four ways that caregivers and children can beat the ‘summer reading slide.’

According to Scholastic’s “Ten Critical Facts About Summer Reading,” school age students who do not read during the summer experience a loss of academic skills and knowledge, popularly known as the ‘summer slide’ or ‘summer learning loss.’ They note, “Regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic level, or previous achievement, children who read four or more books over the summer fare better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who read one or no books over the summer.” No one is born a strong reader. Over time, readers develop and practice the skills needed to identify letters and sounds, recognize when they are confused, and try different strategies to fix their comprehension.

With a plan in place, we can ensure that the children in our lives have access to diverse reading content that is suited to their learning needs and interests.

1. PRACTICE PHONICS

Reading Eggs is a phonics program that uses animation and games to teach children 3-13 yrs old how to read. Caregivers can try out the program for an entire MONTH before committing.

This program would be great for children of all ages to reinforce their knowledge of phonics—which sadly is no longer taught in most school districts. Many of our children have a choppy, or incomplete, knowledge of the sound system in English, and it interferes with their comprehension. As a former high school tutor and middle school Special Education teacher, I am excited to see a phonics program that integrates web technology, animation, gaming and music—all strategies that I used to engage older students who were struggling readers. Currently, I am the parent of a teenage English language learner who has made enormous strides with ESL instruction, but she needs direct instruction in English grammar to become college ready. How do I engage her in the study of phonics and grammar without having her shut down in frustration or boredom? I can not tell you if Reading Eggs is the solution, but I certainly am motivated to give it a shot for this summer. Are you? If so, let me know how it goes in the comments section.

2. PRACTICE COMPREHENSION

Besides your local library, I truly believe that the best place to obtain high quality educational literature is the publisher. They often have a wider range of choices and promotional discounts than a large bookstore chain. I recommend checking out Carson–Dellosa Publishing. Geared towards both teachers and parents, it has more than 4,000 educational products for children from Pre-K through 9th grade. There are tons of incentive stickers, reading books, workbooks and the like for you to explore—and please bookmark this article for future reference—but there are two products that I’d like to bring to your attention. Of special interest for the summer are their: 1) Summer Bridge workbooks and 2) Interactive Notebooks. The Summer Bridge workbooks feature activities that sharpen skills from all subjects.

The Interactive Notebooks integrate note-taking with arts and crafts, creating access to content for visual and tactile learners. When I previewed a free sample lesson for Grade 8 Language Arts, I was impressed with how simple and easy-to-follow the lesson plans were. Parents or mature older siblings could facilitate the lessons, if desired. As a veteran staff member of both after-school and summer camp programs, I can envision their being used in both settings for fun, engaging academic enrichment. Available in print or eBook, these lessons and accompanying templates are terrific supplements to any summer school, camp, or home-school language arts program. See below for more goodies like summer clearance sales and free stickers:

3. EXPAND YOUR LIBRARY

Once your child is armed with strategies for decoding and comprehension, there’s nothing to it but to do it! Children and young adults are more likely to read texts that interest them, and that they have chosen themselves. First, your local library is a great place to peruse titles and to ask the children’s librarian for recommendations. They are trained professionals who can help you find authors, new books and series that match your child’s interests. A second way to access new reading materials, that allows you to build your home library, is through subscribing to a children’s magazine. I’ve mentioned literacy resources for children with particular interests in art, movement and music, but what about nature? If you know a child who loves animals, plants, and the outdoors, then a Zoobooks magazine definitely should be in his or her hands. Filled with gorgeous photography and articles about wildlife, Zoobooks offers yearly subscriptions for children from birth through 12yrs old. Purchase one subscription and receive one for a second child for free!

4. JOIN A SUMMER READING CHALLENGE

Everyone enjoys being recognized or rewarded for hard work, and reading challenges provide a way for children to record what they are reading, how much they are reading, and to obtain incentives for reaching a goal. It’s a win, win. Every year around this time, I receive a notice from a district politician promoting a reading challenge that runs from June through August. Politicians, local libraries, and publishers often sponsor these programs in which children earn rewards either during or at the completion of the summer:

  • Newsela is sponsoring a summer reading challenge from June 1-August 14, 2016. The website features current event news articles that are differentiated for various reading levels. To participate, children read articles and take online quizzes. As incentives, they earn electronic points and badges. Some students may already have an account from the school year, and they can continue to use it over the summer. If they do not already have one, you can register them for free!

  • Scholastic is sponsoring a summer reading challenge from May 9 through September 9, 2016. Children log their reading minutes each day and receive virtual prizes and entry into a sweepstakes. Educators can register their students and track their progress over the summer. Click HERE for more information.

  • www.summerreading.org is a collaboration among the three public library systems in NYC: The New York Public Library (serving Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island), Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library. After logging in using their library card, or creating a free account, children can create an avatar, log the titles of books read and the amount of minutes read, submit book, movie or music reviews, and earn badges for everything that they accomplish. You can also find out about all of the exciting events happening this summer.

  • The New York Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge 2016 includes kick-off events at local branches, downloadable calendars and reading logs, recommended reading lists, and a book review contest for a chance to win a trip to a Yankee’s game and meet a player!

There are so many more ways to beat the summer reading slide, and they all start and end with giving children choices and having fun. If you have any success with these strategies or products, I’d love to hear about it. Here’s to more days of lemonade and literacy! Cheers!

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