Expert Viewpoint

Simple Steps To Help Students Avoid the Summer Slide

Advice to Share with Families on Boosting Reading Abilities

Will your students have 6 minutes available in their day over the summer? That’s all it takes each day to make a struggling reader into a proficient one, according to research from Renaissance: just 6 extra minutes of reading a day.

While that is an average difference, all of that additional reading adds up. Over time, reading increases a student’s vocabulary, comprehension, language skills, attention, and creativity. Combined, these skills are crucial for children to be successful.

Renaissance also points out that students who do not read at grade level typically read less than 15 minutes per day. Outside of specific learning or reading disabilities, this daily lack of reading causes a learning gap and contributes to worsening inequities in learning outcomes. According to the Atlantic, “student-achievement gaps by race and socioeconomic status widened in reading” throughout the pandemic.

Most reading experts suggest at least 20 minutes of reading per day. Those students who commit to even this minimum daily activity see an increase in reading achievement.

Those 6 additional minutes of reading per day make a difference for children. Their ability to read fluently and comprehend what they read determines whether a child receives reading intervention, graduates on schedule, and the likelihood of them attending college.

Encouraging Children and Families to Read More, Anywhere and Anytime

Finding the time, and even the place, for families to read every day can be a unique challenge, especially over the summer when routines are interrupted with vacations and the like. Encouraging parents and caregivers to expect and plan for this will benefit your students in the long run.

Acclaimed author Stephen King reminds us that physical books are the answer, saying: “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Books can go wherever we go, making it easy for our children to read anywhere, at any time, with anyone. They can read while eating a snack, in the car, at the park, indoors on a rainy day, with a friend, to a pet, via video call with a grandparent or alone. If your students and families do not have physical books in their homes, encourage them to take a family trip to the local library.

A Message to Share with Families: Build Reading Habits Over the Summer

When school is out, summer becomes the perfect time for students to continue building reading habits. In 20 or more minutes a day, families can carve out reading in fun and creative ways:

  • Pack books in the beach or pool bag. After swimming, everyone can take some time to relax and read.
  • Play audiobooks in the car to create shared family reading experiences.
  • Reading aloud at bedtime. Reading aloud doesn’t have to be a picture book, either. Chapter books are also perfect for building a love of reading and generating all of those great outcomes. According to Neuman, S. B., Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S., 2000, “reading aloud is foundational to becoming a successful reader.”
  • The entire family gathers in a room, reads their own books, and shares their thoughts. According to Kim, 2006, “family involvement in reading can improve a student's literacy skills over the summer.”
  • Participate in summer reading programs. According to Roman, Carran & Fiore, 2010, “participation in summer reading programs results in higher academic achievement.”

Summer Reading Programs Can Be Fun for the Entire Family

Summer reading challenges and programs typically have a theme that gets students excited about reading. Students usually set a goal to read a particular number of books or pages. They then record the books they have read and turn in that recording sheet to get recognized for their reading efforts.

Summer reading programs are low-stakes. They don’t require children to take a reading test or answer comprehension questions; they just get to enjoy reading for the love of reading and reap all of the benefits from reading.

Summer reading programs also create shared experiences with the family, school, and larger community. At the same time, they get students excited about reading. Generating excitement around books encourages children to read more.

Children and families can find summer reading challenges in a variety of places. Local libraries, nonprofits like Reading Is Fundamental, and ed tech companies focused on helping children enjoy reading like Novel Effect, host summer reading programs or challenges.

It is now easier than ever for families — even over the summer — to build upon the foundation of creating lifelong readers that you started in your classrooms.

About the Author

Tracy Mercier is a Library Media Specialist who coaches educators and students in multimedia literacies; she serves as Curriculum and Content Specialist at Novel Effect (, which uses voice recognition to add interactive music and sound effects as the user reads aloud from a picture book, creating engaging activities that connect readers to books and the accompanying soundscapes.