Summer Slide: Reading

Researchers, parents, and teachers have been concerned about “summer slide” for decades. In this series of posts, we explore what this really means for kids with concrete steps that parents can take to help.

Children who read or go to the library over the summer are less prone to summer slide. But how much does reading help? And what can parents do if their kids aren’t that interested in reading?

Researchers in Florida conducted an experiment each summer for three years with elementary school children to see if they could lessen summer slide. They found that children who were randomly selected to pick out 12 books on the last day of school performed slightly better on a reading test. The books alone didn’t completely get rid of summer slide. But given how simple an approach it is, letting kids pick out books they’re interested in is a strategy worth trying.

The thought of spending the summer reading is probably not appealing to all kids. So what can parents do to encourage reading? Using a reward system can help, but only if the rewards are also books. Other rewards can turn reading into a competition leading kids to lose the intrinsic satisfaction of reading. That being said, every kid is different. If you find that a reward system is effective for your child, then by all means, go for it.

What can parents do to encourage their kids to read? Ask them (open-ended!) questions about what they’re reading. This can help them with literacy skills like storytelling, making connections and predictions, and thinking about how to solve problems. Asking whether they read or how much they read could end up making them think that reading is a competition or just a way to earn other more fun activities. Deeper, more meaningful questions can shift the focus from their quantity of reading towards the quality of their reading.

What happened in your book today?

What did that remind you of?

What do you think is going to happen next?

How do you think (character’s name) could solve that problem?


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Kutsch, D. (2012). Summer Reading Dilemma Solved! Reading Teacher, 8, 550.

Marinak, B. A. (2007). Insights about third-grade children’s motivation to read. College Reading Association Yearbook, 28, 54–65.

McGaha, J. M. & Igo, B. (2012). Assessing high school students’ reading motivation in a voluntary summer reading program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, (55)5, 417– 27.