June Literacy Tip

Prevent Summer Reading Dip


Dear Colleagues,

The 2012-2013 school year is coming to an end and we would be remiss if we did not conclude our Literacy Tip series with an emphasis on summer reading.  The summer slide is true, documented over the past several decades; students reading performance can slip over the summer months if not exercised.  Summer reading loss can be likened to playing golf.  A player who’s learned how to play golf won’t forget the basics if he takes time off.  But he will lose prowess and his skill level will slide over that period.  Just as with lack of play with golf when it comes to reading, the loss can add up. 

What does the research tells us about summer reading loss?
  • Students regress about three months in achievement and these losses are cumulative creating a wider gap each year.  By the time a student reaches middle school, the reading loss can be two or more years of lost reading achievement (Franzen & Allington, 2003).
  • The ongoing summer reading loss is cumulative and eventually affects high school graduation rates and attendance in college (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007).
  • Summer reading loss is greater for low-socioeconomic students than high-socioeconomic students.  The lack of access to books is the major cause of regression for students of poverty (Allington, 2012).
  • The use of the public library during the summer is more predictive of vocabulary gains than is attending summer school (Heyns, 1978).


Stop the Reading Slide – Create a Reading Habit

Reading five to six books over the summer is sufficient to prevent the decline in reading achievement.  Children don’t just need books; they need “good-fit” books.  Providing them books that match their skill level and interests is a first step in encouraging voluntary reading.  Also, children should be given a lot of choice in what they read.  When children are allowed to pursue their personal reading interests they build internal motivation to read.  Motivation is a key ingredient for creating reading habit.
The school library provides the best access to “good-fit” books for students.  Allow students to check out school or classroom library books for the summer.  Schools might staff the library one day/evening a week throughout the summer so children can return their books and check out new ones.
Reading aloud to students is a powerful way to create reading interest, as well as introduce them to new books/authors.  Series books, with their consistency of characters and patterned plots, provide reluctant readers with reassurance of familiarity.  Once a reader is hooked by a series, the reading risk is alleviated.  Make sure to share an equal balance of narrative and informative selections.  Remember to encourage parents to read aloud to their children throughout the summer months.  Heighten awareness about the importance of talking with their children about the books read; verbal interaction builds kids’ vocabulary.
Suggest to students they read 15 to 20 minutes a day and keep a reading log.  A log might include some of the following:

Children develop the reading habit (not through worksheets and multiple choice questions) but by reading lots of text that they find personally rewarding.  Stop the summer slide and help all students escape into a great book that will transport them into new worlds.
Please forward this email to other interested colleagues.  Interested readers can go to www.rachelbillmeyer.com to sign up for future Literacy Tips.
Happy Reading and Happy Summer,
Rachel and Associates