We can stop the summer reading slide!

In a 2007 study Alexander, Entwisle and Olson reported that the most significant achievement differences among elementary students are due largely to summer reading loss, more than socioeconomic level or other factors.


The single best way to mitigate summer reading loss is to ensure that students are reading during the holidays. Here are some ways to keep them reading through July and August…

 Make sure students have books to take home over the summer. Children with more books in the home – even if they are from low SES levels – are less vulnerable to summer reading loss.

 Allow students choice in the books they will take home for the summer. Guide students in finding books they’re interested in and able to read. Struggling readers often choose books that are too difficult for them to read.

Provide opportunities to exchange or add to the book collections over the summer.  Some schools open their school libraries once a week during the summer; others hold midsummer “reading reunions” or “book fairs.”

Be creative about finding books and funding for summer reading programs.  Hang on to book fair bonus books from the school year.  Scrounge yard sales and discount stores.  Partner with a more affluent school in your community who might be able to organize book drives.  Ask publishers if they have print overruns that they might offer free or at a significant discount. Remember that a putting books in the hands of students is still a lot cheaper than running a summer school or intervention program.

Provide magazine subscriptions for vulnerable readers. It’s pretty exciting to receive a magazine in the mail.

Review independent reading strategies before summer.  One study found that students who received instruction in self-monitoring and other comprehension strategies before the end of school experienced more benefit from their summer reading that students who received no extra instruction.

It may be helpful to provide incentives for summer reading.  Along with the books, you might provide students with a timer to time their daily reading. Random telephone calls from teachers or principals during the summer can offer extra motivation.  Even a reading log helps students record their accomplishments.

Read more in “Summer reading loss is the basis of almost all the rich/poor reading gap” by Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen.

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