Paul B. Yellin, MD, FAAP, Director of The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, and Learning Specialist Beth Guadagni share how summer reading helps students maintain the progress they gained throughout the school year and give some special tips for balancing educational growth with summer fun.
As the end of the school year looms, the last thing most children want to think about is more homework. But, for all students, taking the summer off from school can lead to a loss of hard-earned skills – what educators call the "summer slide." What's worse is that a summer away from the classroom has the most impact on students who can least afford to regress.
In 2012, when the College Board conducted a meta-analysis of research on literacy and how reading skills are affected by the summer recess, it noted that young children in the lowest socioeconomic group were exposed to three million words each year, while children in the highest group heard around eleven million words annually. Early language exposure has been shown to have a major impact on academic performance and long-term success. Not surprisingly, the severity of summer learning loss was also correlated with family income: children from less affluent families return to school in fall even further behind than their wealthier peers.
In addition, the studies reviewed found that those students who are strong readers tend to read more, building both their reading skills and their general knowledge, while students who struggle with reading avoid this difficult task and miss the chance to strengthen their reading skills, build new vocabulary, and add to their general knowledge. In other words, a summer slide is most damaging to those who are already at a disadvantage. Without continued language and skill-building over the summer, struggling students returning to school in the fall face the demoralizing prospect of finding themselves even further behind their peers.
Regardless of their childhood exposure to language, students with reading disorders such as dyslexia are also at great risk of summer slide. For these children, who struggle with the linkages between letters and sounds, learning new words can be an arduous process, requiring extensive repetition. Putting aside reading lessons that are designed to target their particular learning needs can have a significant deleterious impact on their reading progress.
What can parents and educators do to keep students from regressing during summer vacation while balancing the need for summer fun?
More from Learning Ally on summer reading:
About Paul B. Yellin, MD
- Make summer learning part of the fun by encouraging struggling readers to use audiobooks to build their knowledge and vocabulary while exposing them to age-appropriate content beyond their reading level. Many of the books recommended for educators to use in building Common Core skills are available as audiobooks. Check Learning Ally's suggested K-12 common core titles and lifelong learner books available in its audiobook library.
- Increasingly, audiobooks can be linked to E-books, highlighting each word as it is read. This exciting technology can be particularly helpful in reinforcing phonics and sight word recognition. VOICEtext books from Learning Ally sync audio and highlighted text to help improve reading skills.
- Help kids “frontload” for the next school year by exposing them to information they will be able to apply to next year’s curriculum. For example, students who will be learning about American history next year might prompt a family trip to the Freedom Trail in Boston, to Washington, D.C., or to a local area of historical interest.
- Sign up for a library summer reading program and read about how these can help inspire students to read and improve their school performance.
- Limit screen time to activities that build competencies– games that build math skills, word games, and films that will inspire students to read the book on which they were based. Still, even educational screen time is no substitute for unstructured play or quiet reading under a favorite tree.
Paul B. Yellin, MD, FAAP, is Director of The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a New York City-based learning evaluation, support, and professional development organization which provides customized support for students and educators based on emerging knowledge in neuroscience. Dr. Yellin is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics.
About Beth Guadagni
Beth Guadagni is a Learning Specialist at The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education. She earned her bachelor's degree at Vanderbilt University, double majoring in English and secondary education, and her master’s degree from Columbia University's Teachers College. Before coming to the Yellin Center, Beth taught English at both the high school and middle school levels and spent time traveling and living abroad.