How-To Tuesday: Stop the Reading Summer Slide

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Emily Gooding

Summer learning loss is a growing problem for American children but there is a simple solution. Research shows that reading just five books during the summer can help kids stay on the path to academic success during the next school year.

Reading just five books over the summer can prevent academic learning losses.

Students across the board score lower on tests taken at the end of the summer than those taken at the beginning. Most students lose two months of math skills over the summer, but low-income students lose an additional two months in reading achievement.

This reality leads to an ever-increasing gap between low-income kids and their peers. A Johns Hopkins' study concluded that two-thirds of the achievement gap between low- and high-income high school freshmen could be attributed to summer learning loss in elementary school. As this gap widens, the underachieving students become less likely to graduate from high school or enroll in college.

Bridging the Gap

The Let's Read. Let's Move. initiative focuses on promoting service and action to improve three pillars of a child's life: healthy eating, physical activity, and academic achievement. On the academic front, the program encourages practices that reduce summer learning loss.

Summer programs that focus on individualized attention and parental engagement have proven successful at mitigating the problem. The REAL Kids Summer Program in New York City and Energy Express in West Virginia engage children in a holistic approach to improving achievement that embodies health, wellness, and academic goals.

Even if specialized programs are not available in your area, there are still many ways you can work to prevent the “summer slide” with your kids and in your community.

Connect Kids and Books

Michael Wang collects a children’s book from Ethel Parks, a Foster Grandparent, on the first day of the Summer Book Drive in Oakland, CA.

One way to improve reading skills is to increase kids' access to books. You can work to get books in the hands of children who need them by organizing a book drive for schools or programs in your community, and we have a Book Distribution Toolkit to help you get started.

If you don't want to organize an event, keep an eye out for other ways to donate books. The Northern California branch of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is hosting its third-annual Summer Book Drive this month to collect books for the East Bay Children's Book Project in Oakland, CA.

This drive is accepting books for kindergarten through high school reading levels at bins located in the lobbies of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building, the Elihu M. Harris State Building, and Oakland's City Hall. The books will be sorted for distribution on Friday, August 17. (Contact gbentonshoemaker@cns.gov or call at 510-637-1746 with any questions or to volunteer at the book sort.)

Looking for some other ideas to get kids reading? Organizations that work with low-income kids can also register with First Book to obtain free or very low cost books for distribution. And the Department of Education recently shared five suggestions in a blog post that can help improve summer learning retention.

Let's take a stand for our kids and encourage them to keep reading over the summer and stop the summer slide.

Michael Wang, a summer intern with CNCS, contributed to this article.

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