Avoiding the Dreaded “Summer Slide”: Encouraging Early Literacy During Summer Break

It’s here! It’s here! Hooray! The days of lax schedules, late bedtimes, and endless pool days are finally upon us. Backpacks are hidden in the closet; their trusty hooks now occupied by damp beach towels and and assorted flotation devices. “Out of sight, out of mind,” may be your summer motto when it comes to all things school related, but come late August, this mentality could have devastating effects on your child’s academic success. “How could this be possible?” Allow me to introduce you to every teacher’s worst nightmare and arch enemy (insert dreaded dum, dum, dum music): The Summer Slide.

The “summer slide” occurs between all grade levels, but as a former first grade teacher, and seasoned kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that the summer between kindergarten and first grade tends to be the absolute worst, most vulnerable time period for kiddos who leave kindergarten academically on-track, to fall victim to this terrible slump.

What is the “summer slide” you might ask? The summer slide takes place when a student leaves a grade level reading and writing on or above level, and returns to school in the fall scoring below expectations on beginning of the year assessments, and is then considered academically “at risk.” I wish that I could tell you that this occurrence is rare, but unfortunately it has become all too common in today’s classrooms.

During the school year, your child has been reading and writing daily at school and at home. This is what has led to their amazing growth and progress! During the summer, when a student does little reading and writing, it is very easy for them to lose many of the skills they acquired throughout the school year. I have had many beginning of the year conferences with shocked and concerned parents, when I had to share test results showing that their child was not meeting grade level goals and standards at the beginning of the year. Every single time, parents would say, “I don’t understand. They were exceeding standards at the end of the school year. How can they be behind?” As you can imagine, each time, I then have to ask how much reading they did over the summer. The answer is almost always, “Well, we did do some reading every now and then.” This statement is almost always paired with a facial expression that expresses guilt, regret, and frustration.

I am sharing this with you because it is absolutely imperative that your child continue practicing their reading and writing every single day over the summer break to maintain (at minimum), their current reading and writing level. This does NOT mean, that you should skip the pool, play dates, and vacations, and sit at the kitchen table working on academics all day! Summer break is meant to be a break, and a time to recharge and have fun! This simply means, pick one or two short periods of time every day (20 minutes a day or so) to have your child practice sight words, read a book, and write a little bit. The key to summer practice is to keep things fresh and fun. The following are some novel ideas that you can easily incorporate into your summer:

  • Have your child read YOU a bedtime story.
  • Create a “Memory” game with sight words. Winner gets first pick of the pool toys.
  • Take pictures of vacations or fun activities. Staple blank paper into a book and glue a picture on each page. Have your child become an author, and write the words or stories (depending on age) to go with the pictures. Read these books together at bedtime.
  • Have your child keep a journal that they write in each night. Have them write one or two things about their day.
  • Keep a notebook where you can write letters to your child, and they can write letters to you. This is great writing practice and a sentimental keepsake.
  • Lists, lists, and more lists! Your child can make a list for the grocery store, a summer bucket list, a wish list, a vacation packing list, and even a list of friends they would like to invite for a play date. Bonus points if they make their lists on lined handwriting paper!

Summer learning should be enjoyable and certainly not a form of torture! A small amount of practice each day can set your child up for success in the fall. Please do not let your little one be another summer slide victim claimed, after all of their hard work this year.

How does your family encourage literacy during the summer?

Kristen D
Kristen D began her motherhood journey as a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her 1 pound, 8 ounce miracle daughter (2011). After two eventful years at home, she returned to teaching and swears that a day in a kindergarten class would be the greatest reality show ever made! When she isn’t molding minds, she can be found enjoying her hysterically inquisitive daughter. Together, they are navigating the uncharted waters of pediatric feeding disorders, feeding tubes, blended diets, and of course elementary school fashion. Kristen’s favorites include monogramming anything not moving, consuming brunch as often as possible, restarting the dryer to avoid ironing, and life as a newlywed!


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