summerThe school year is coming to a close and teachers and administrators are talking about a persistent problem—summer slide.  Summer vacation is longed for by students and many tired teachers.  Long days, no homework (or lesson plans) makes those days away from school idyllic.

But all those weeks without any school work comes with a cost. Far too many students lose so much of their reading and learning skills that teachers need four to six weeks to bring them back to where they were at the end of the school year. Not surprisingly less proficient students lose more than those who do better in school. The latter are more likely to read on their own while the former are glad they don’t have any required reading. Lower income students are hit the hardest.

This is not just a problem in the United States. Canada recognizes it as well. The province of Alberta has a site on Preventing Summer Slide. It’s short and gives you some ideas on what to do.

Many schools have a summer reading list which has both positives and negatives aspects.  While it does force kids to read some books, those who have been through it before know that in most places there is little follow up when school resumes.  And if there is an assignment of some type connected with it, doing a poor job on it has only minor consequences. In addition, as librarians we know that putting reading in the context of something potentially punitive is the worst way to encourage life long readers.summer slide

Summer Loans

While you might not be able to do much about loss of math skills, you certainly can help to curtail loss of reading skills. One quick approach, if your administration approves, is to allow students to borrow books for the summer.  Yes, there is a danger they will be lost, but combatting summer slide is far more important. You can limit the number to four but ten would better, and you can restrict the borrowing to paperbacks or older book

If you go with this option, set up several table top displays to encourage browsing.  See if you can get paper bags with handles and put a colorful label saying “My Summer Reading” on them. Place students’ selections in them and encourage them to put them back in the bag when they are finished and bring the bag back at the beginning of the school year.

Put a “review” card or sheet of paper in each of their books.  Have them write the author/title and call # on top, rate the book from 1-10, and add an optional comment about it. Be sure to have a good selection of non-fiction books available for those who prefer them.

Outreach

If visiting the public library in the summer is an option for your student population, see if the children’s or young adult librarian can come to your school, bring library card applications, and tell kids about summer programs available at the library.  They normally have a reading program for the elementary grades and other possibilities for older students.  Just visiting the library, being surrounded by books –and computers—encourages reading.

Communicate with parents about summer slide.  While more challenging in low income areas, do the best you can. Your website is one way but it doesn’t work where parents don’t have Internet access. Find out if your town –or city—has a recreational program for the summer.  In many low income areas they or another group provide free lunch to those who can’t get it while schools are closed.  See if they will distribute brochures for you giving parents information about summer slide and what they can do about it.

Resources

resourcesEither on your website or in the brochures (or both) provide links to good resources for parents. Some possibilities are:

You can do an online search and find other resources.  Google and Bing have great images you can use to alert parents to the issue. This is a busy time for you. If you can’t put any of these ideas into action now, start collecting sources and information so you will be ready next year. It’s a great way to also promote your library program.

What are you doing to prevent Summer Slide with your students? Have you initiated something in the past that worked?

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