The long awaited summer break is just around the corner, and while we are all looking forward to the fun summer months ahead, we might also start thinking about how we can encourage our students to continue reading during summer to prevent learning loss. You’ve spent all year teaching your students strategies and providing them with learning opportunities to become better readers, so don’t let that go by the wayside this summer. Educators know, and research supports the negative impact summer can have on a student’s learning and reading skills. A recent study “School’s out: The role of summers in understanding achievement disparities” (2020) examined summer learning loss (commonly referred to as the summer slide) across grades 1–8 and found that the average student lost 17–34% of the prior year’s learning gains during summer break. While I’m not sure of the percentage of learning loss for high school students, I do know that they, too, experience learning loss. This is a significant impact that we can help mitigate by encouraging our students to keep reading during the summer months.
The benefits of summer reading are strong. To name just a few, summer reading:
- Encourages lifelong reading habits;
- Supports reluctant readers;
- Helps maintain reading skills and prevents summer learning loss;
- Keeps the mind active over the summer;
- Helps with fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and improving overall reading skills.
The good news is that setting your students up for summer reading is easy. Below are some helpful tips and suggestions to get them on the road to reading.
- Give students choice. When it comes to encouraging summer reading, we know that when kids can choose what they read, they read. Encourage them to read graphic novels, comic books, magazines, short stories, fantasy, non-fiction . . . whatever. This is the time to let students explore their own interests and text types. The key is that they read! Giving them choice makes it more fun and helps build reading habits. Forget about the days when everybody was assigned to read the same book and either wrote a paper or took a quiz when they returned to school in August. Instead, make reading fun! Get creative and provide opportunities for students to share what they are reading by making Tik-Tok videos or Instagram posts, arrange to have a summer reading book club (virtual or in person), set up an opportunity for students to share and discuss what they read over the summer when they return to school. The idea is to keep it light and fun, don’t make it about an assignment or grade.
- Reach out to the local library to find out if they offer summer reading programs in your community and invite a librarian in to talk to students about visiting the library to explore and check out a variety of books. Even if there isn’t a summer reading program, encourage students to visit their local library this summer to check out the selection. Librarians are always happy to help students pick out books. The best part of this – it’s free!
- Encourage students (along with their parents) to read about a place they might be visiting this summer. This gives students and parents something to talk about and provides a great model for how much fun reading can be when done together. Besides, background knowledge is one of the most important components of strong reading comprehension, and reading about a place students are going to visit provides context and engagement.
- Encourage listening to audiobooks. Yes, audiobooks count (especially during the summer) and are a great way to expose students to more complex texts that they might not otherwise read. Listening to audiobooks can be especially enjoyable to struggling readers. Students can listen to audiobooks on their phones at any time or together with family members going on a trip or riding around town. Students can access free audiobooks at their public library or oftentimes a simple Google search will turn up free audio books.
- For students and families that might benefit from additional support, consider sharing with parents information about the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning’s Artful Reading (AR) on the Go kits. These subscription-based kits are available for students Pre-K to middle school and support literacy in the home by providing families with carefully crafted, arts-integrated literacy experiences they can share together that foster academic and social emotional learning. The at-home learning experiences help children build developmentally-appropriate literacy skills. For the caregiver, the guidebook provides the support for meaningful and engaging conversations around a book and the activities. As a result, families are empowered and students are successful. You can learn more about AR on the Go on our website at www.ctlonline.org/ar-on-the-go/.
Summer should be a time for students to have fun and relax, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t still engage their minds. Reading gives students space for both. If we provide them with choices and opportunities to make reading an enjoyable experience over the summer, they will be able to practice the reading skills they learned during the school year (and won’t even realize they’re doing it), beat the summer slide, and if we’re lucky, just may discover or rediscover the joy of reading.
Atteberry, A., & McEachin, A. (2021). School’s out: The role of summers in understanding achievement disparities. American Educational Research Journal, 58(2), 239-282.