Expert Viewpoint

How Teachers Can Support Families with Summer Reading Activities

It is no surprise that students tend to lose some of the knowledge learned during the school year when summer break hits. This is known as the "summer slide."

In fact, an NWEA study of current research examining K–8 student progress during a typical school year and over the summer reveals that historically underserved groups suffer most when school is out for summer break, emphasizing the importance of summer learning programs in overcoming inequitable achievement gaps.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the research shows that students with disabilities, English learners, and rural students fall behind during summer at a greater rate than their grade-level peers.

Summer learning loss is pervasive and significant, according to Oxford Learning:

  • The equivalent of one month of learning is lost after summer vacation.
  • 2.6 months of math skills are lost over the summer.
  • 2 months of reading are lost over the summer.
  • 6 weeks are spent re-learning old material in the fall to make up for summer learning loss.

One of the most important things for educators heading into summer break is understanding what they can do to intercept these losses.

Many believe that just reading to a child often over the summer is enough to prevent the loss of the reading gains achieved over the school year. While helpful, it is not enough for at-risk literacy groups. Educators should provide input and recommendations to parents to help weave critical reading skills into their days at home.

At the Institute for Multi-sensory Education (IMSE), we believe that kids need, and deserve, a break from school. But finding the right balance of giving kids time off, while maintaining the learning gains established during the school year only takes 2-3 hours of work per week.

Many of IMSE's instructors and certified members across the country are also tutoring over the summer. Teachers can share IMSE’s list of tutors around the country with parents that may be seeking additional help this summer to look for a tutor near them.

Following are some additional resources for K–12 educators to help kids keep up with their foundational reading skills.

  • Look into summer enrichment options: Many summer reading programs are available, such as programs offered through libraries, schools, YMCAs, and community centers. Students who participate in summer learning programs benefit from notable advancements in their academic achievement, including vocabulary and reading skills.
  • Tap into multisensory activities: There are many multisensory activities that teachers can use to enhance the reading experience, such as multi-sensory screens, sand trays, shaving cream, Elkonin boxes, vowel cards, finger tapping cards, and more. Teachers can promote reading skills by giving simple ideas and ways to tap into their child’s five senses to boost reading literacy.

Once school is out for summer, it can be difficult to reach students that may not have parents available who can take them to the library each week or read with them before bed each night. Teachers can keep kids engaged and excited over the summer by creating a reward system for finishing books over the summer, and by providing a list of recommended books by age group that kids can find at their local library.

Teachers can also encourage multi-sensory reading through audiobooks by working with their district to provide student discounts for audiobook listening apps such as Audible, Spotify or Google Play Books.

Finally, teachers can help keep parents in the loop of free educational activities going on in their community through a monthly newsletter or email that goes out to parents with local events taking place that encourage learning and keep young minds’ stimulated over the summer.

Summer can be a great time to relax the mind, but there are plenty of opportunities for teachers to help keep kids on track with their learning gains while still enjoying their summer.

About the Author

Jeanne Jeup is a former first-grade teacher, a global literacy advocate, and co-founder of IMSE, a provider of Structured Literacy Professional Development training programs.