Teachers worry about the summer slide. Students often lose academic muscle in June and July and then need August and September to tone up again. This is why many middle and high school teachers assign summer work, which most students let slide all summer until the week before school starts again.
Perhaps a more effective summer-time approach to academics is to grow readers. Kids who read have advantages. Reading develops imagination and logical thinking. It improves writing, increases knowledge, enlarges understanding, and develops empathy.
Some kids need no help in becoming passionate readers who wonder and question and predict as they read and who make inferences and life connections that go beyond the page. But some kids need help. How can you coach parents to help reluctant readers move into greater engagement with reading? Here are some tips to pass on to parents:
- Schedule an eye exam. If a kid is resistant to reading it might be because words look fuzzy or letters jump around on the page or lines of text weave. Kids grow and change quickly, and so can their eyes.
- Build a reading community. Read what your kids read and then ask them questions—not in the form of a comprehension quiz, but as a real inquiry: I was trying to figure out what I would have said if I had been in that situation. What would you have said?
- Capitalize on impoverished environments. In bathrooms and bedrooms and vans and waiting rooms, subtract digital devices and add books. Tell a kid at bedtime: It’s time for your lights to be out, but I suppose if you want, you could read for twenty minutes.
- Ritualize reading time. Some schools use a DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) program. At DEAR time, students and all staff, stop right in the middle of the school day and read at the same time. Try this at home. I grew up with reading suppers. Every few weeks my mom would announce one, and we’d all show up at the supper table with a book. Reading, we could tell, was a treat.
- Flex with the kid. Don’t insist on a list of classics or on books you would like to read. Follow the interests and learning styles of the reader—books with visuals, books about skateboards, fiction or nonfiction. Tantalize reluctant readers by reading the first few chapters aloud and then handing the book over. And remember that this is leisure reading, not school, so let kids abandon books they don’t like, skip boring parts, and peek at conclusions.
Following these tips can help kids avoid the summer slide and come back to school with minds full of ideas and a sense of themselves as readers.