The University of Iowa

6 Steps to Help Avoid Summer Reading Slide


Val Ehlers

K-12 Media Specialist, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District

Posted on: June 7, 2016

Who ISN'T excited about summer? Vacation lists and activities start surmounting  as soon as the sun starts tantalizing my family and I. As a mom of a cross-country runner, I sometimes have to gently nudge, but often times have to push her out the door to run almost daily. The saying, “Use it or lose it,' holds true not just for athletes, but for reading abilities. If an athlete doesn't consistently work to maintain or improve performance, then it stands to reason the performance declines. The same holds true for any skill. The American Educational Research Association compiled 39 studies that show a student may lose up to a month's worth of reading ability over the summer. This means that students can read slower and comprehend less when they return to school, which hurts all coursework that involves reading (science, social studies), and of course English.

With this doom and gloom news, there are many things children and families can do in the summer to help promote reading in a fun and easy way which will not only maintain students' reading abilities but may indeed improve them!  

  1. Contact your school librarian! Often times, this person has information about summer reading programs. I show students in May about summer reading opportunities that use both e-Books and hard copies which offer free and portable reading opportunities. Through AEA267, MackinVia offers an online reading program. All Iowa students can also access resources through all summer.
  2. Contact your local public library! Wonderful programming that offers interesting and fun programs are available.
  3. Check local semi-pro sports teams. The local baseball team (Waterloo Bucks) has a reading incentive program, which has different levels of reading incentives.
  4. Encourage parents/siblings/grandparents to read the same book as the children do. Then have them discuss what was enjoyed about the book and perhaps engage in some activities. Research also shows that physical fitness opportunities decline for many children during the summer. By having an activity with children that corresponds with the book, not only are  physical activities encouraged, but you are also helping kinesthetic learners. If the book was about flying a kite, make a kite and fly it! Have the neighborhood kids write a play and perform it. If the book details animals, go to a zoo/petting zoo, or the animal shelter.
  5. There are 117 books that have been or will be released as movies this year (found on Encourage parents to have their children read the book before it hits the silver screen. This can be a wonderful reward for reading these types of books!
  6. Finally, remind parents that having just 15-20 minutes daily for scheduled reading is all it takes!

Hopefully, these will help provide a fun way to entice students and families to read over the summer. 

In addition to her position as a media specialist, Val Ehlers is also a musical/drama director, Iowa Association of School Librarians (IASL) Executive Board member at large, co-chair of the IASL/ARCL College Readiness Committee, and speech coach.