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Summer Reading Prevents Summer Slide

By Tiffany Guerzon Summer is for sliding; water slides, park slides even

back yard slip ‘n slides. But one slide that you don’t want your child to experience is the “summer slide.” According to the National Summer Learning

Association, kids who don’t engage in educational activities over the summer experience learning loss. Many terms have been coined to describe this loss: “summer slide”, “summer setback”, and “summer learning loss” to name a few. But whatever one calls it, these learning losses are most profound in the area of reading—and hit vulnerable kids the hardest; those who already struggle with reading and kids in lower socio-economic groups. One way to prevent the summer slide is through summer reading programs offered by public libraries. Public library summer reading

programs began in the 1890’s as a way to entice schoolchildren to read and use the library over summer vacation. Since then, many studies have shown that these programs help children retain skills learned during the school year. A 2010 study published in School Library Journal proved that summer reading programs not only prevent learning loss in the area of reading, but students in this study even improved their reading skills. Children’s librarian Sharon Chastain says that learning

One way to prevent the “summer slide” is through summer reading programs offered by public libraries.

vacation. 1,000 minutes can seem daunting to a struggling reader, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. “Our library has set their sights on twenty minutes a day for twenty days within a month which leaves about ten non-reading days to mix in there,” Chastain said. “Twenty minutes a day is the ideal, but if kids can only fit in ten minutes every other day that works too. The idea is that they are somewhat consistent in their reading so they don’t go a month without opening a book. If they go that long, then the slide is in full slip. If a child can open a book and read a chapter that’s great, consistency is the key.”

Other technology such as audio

books can be helpful as well. “Audio books are a powerful tool, especially for kids having difficulty reading.” Chastain said. “It’s very relaxing. It takes the work out of reading and allows kids to enjoy stories at their age level and see what it is they are working toward. If your child is not a strong reader, you should use audio

books as a supplement to reading, preferably with the book in hand so that they can follow along as they listen.” The idea of summer reading programs is to let kids

loss can happen to any student. “Any student who stops reading entirely over the summer will lose ground and be behind in the fall. And it’s true of other skills as well, reading keeps your brain active and the skills that help you read also help with things like math and chemistry. ” Many summer programs challenge kids to read for

twenty minutes per day at least twenty days each month. This adds up to one thousand minutes read by the end of summer


• Read in front of your kids. Modeling is important. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you read, just that your child sees you reading.

• Help your child choose books according to their interests. (This is where your local children’s librarian can guide you.) They might enjoy reading graphic novels or books based on a favorite TV character or superhero. • Try listening to audiobooks as a family on long drives or during vacation. Many audiobooks can be downloaded to iPods or MP3 players.

• Have a variety of books in the home and let kids choose what they want to read. • Keep a book or two in the car, so that there is always reading material available for kids to dip into while sitting in traffic or waiting for an appointment.

34 SUMMER 2012 west virginia Family Magazine 1-304-472-4528 ONLINE EDITION - Click on the URL provided to visit websites listed!

read for the fun of it. “In summer, when kids are let loose to read whatever they want—there is a loud sucking sound as the shelves in the children’s section empty,” Chastain said. “And they stay empty until fall. It’s a beautiful thing.” 

Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer and mother of three

children. Her work has been featured in the Christian Science Monitor, Seattle’s Child, Treasure Coast Parenting Magazine and many more.

Be sure to check out our Summer Camps & Programs Directory in this issue for Library Summer Reading programs!

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