As the last of the school bells ring sometime in May or June of every year, kids race out of classes and into a summer they hope will be filled with fun and adventure. Very few think about reading and the need to keep up with their hard-earned skills from the previous academic year. This leads to what is known as the “Summer Slide” — non-reading students lose their fluency and comprehension over the summer months, and teachers can expect to spend about 4–6 weeks of the new school year re-teaching skills those students have lost.
This year, however, with the novel coronavirus causing a lockdown of students and teachers in their homes and closures of schools and libraries, we’re heading into the summer slide season about 4–5 months earlier than normal, which means it will be that much harder to prevent skill loss. As a result, it’s even more important than ever to get everyone stuck at home involved in the reading process.
Engaging in reading activities during this extended downtime is especially important for emerging readers who need the continual repetition of sound, sight, and coordinating interpretation to acquire the reading fluency skills critical for success at higher grade levels. Parental involvement in reading, both for emerging and for established readers:
- Builds foundational skills,
- Introduces new vocabulary,
- Provides a model of fluent, expressive reading (if read aloud),
- Provides a shared parent-child experience, and
- Helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about.
According to research, low-income students experience greater summer learning losses than their higher-income peers — approximately two months’ worth. Additionally, by the end of the fifth grade, they lag about 2.5 years behind middle-income students, primarily due to losses during the summer breaks.
This lag is also due, in part, to the lack of appropriate materials. A study published in the Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2 (edited by Susan Neuman and David Dickinson) indicated that in middle-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books to child is 13 to 1; in low-income neighborhoods that ratio is an incredible 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children. When the materials are made available in the school environment during the academic year, the research shows that achievement for both middle- and lower-income students improves at a similar rate.
The best way to deal with the summer (or coronavirus) slide is not to let it happen in the first place. Research shows that reading just 4–5 books during the interim can prevent a decline in a child’s fall reading scores. Kate DiCamillo, a two-time Newbery Medal Award-winning author, says the key is finding ways to make reading fun, combining education and entertainment for an activity that kids find enjoyable. “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty, but rather as a gift that emphasizes the fun of opening a new book and celebrating the satisfaction that comes from reading another story,” she has said.
But how can kids — especially low-income kids — get the books they need to stay on top of their reading skills? Well, just because a library has closed its doors doesn’t mean it isn’t doing business. Most have materials on their websites from which you can “check out” and download material for a couple of weeks. They may also have interesting movies you can watch.
Access may be a problem for students without home computers or internet access, but in this trying time, various educational and community institutions are making laptops, tablets, and WiFi available for any student who needs them, both so they can do their homework assigned online and so they can download and read eBooks while they have the time.
AceReader, too, can play an important part in preventing the early summer slide. Accessible from any device with an internet connection, the program helps teach and reinforce good reading habits in a user-friendly manner and at all levels from grade school through adult. The program comes with over 1,000 built-in eBooks you can read, and you can copy-and-paste material from any other document into the Read Mode, set the parameters, and practice your reading techniques. You can use this feature with text in any language that supports the ASCII character set, as well as languages that read right-to left or left-to-right. Learn more here.
Just because school is not in session, or is only available via distance learning, does not mean you should stop reading, learning, and working to stop an early summer slide. You can find additional resources for reading material and other educational activities in previous blogs, both here and here.
 Gundlach, Marlene. (June 26, 2015). “Statistics on Summer Reading.” Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/summer-learning-activities-ideas/78894-how-reading-prevents-summer-learning-loss/
 Retrieved from https://www.startwithabook.org/reading-aloud.