Prevent Summer Slide With These Reading Activities All Year Round

Black and brown children from low-income households experience the highest loss of reading skills over the summer. These activities can help prevent "summer slide."

father and daughter reading in bedroom
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As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of [their] deep and continuing needs, is good for [them]."

But that need to read can sometimes take the backseat, especially when school's out for the summer and other activities are prioritized. Younger children—especially those in kindergarten, first, or second grade—are likely to experience the "Summer Slide," where teachers expect students to have lost some knowledge from the prior school year, particularly in reading and math. The Summer Slide disproportionately impacts Black and brown children from low-income households due to a lack of access to summer enrichment programs.

How can we avoid the Summer Slide and foster our kids' love for reading during the long summer months and beyond? Here are some fun activities so parents can play an active role in their children's development while nurturing their love for reading.

Read Aloud With Your Child

A 2019 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that children who had books read to them daily have heard roughly 296,660 words by their 5th birthday compared to the 4,662 words heard by those who weren't read to at the same age. Exposure to more vocabulary makes children more likely to score higher on standardized tests. Having your child read out loud is a great activity for early readers. Have them pick out a book that interests them and have them read it to you. They may stumble on a few words—help them with it and note the words they get stuck on.

Create Pictures for Each Vocabulary Word

Education scholars continue to emphasize the importance of Black youth having books and images that "mirror" their experiences to develop a positive self-image. By creating pictures for each vocabulary word, Black families can do this directly. Grab some note cards or cut up sheets of paper into smaller rectangles. Have the child write the word they're having a hard time with on one side of the paper, along with the definition and examples. On the other side, have them draw a picture that reminds them of the word. Making vocabulary cards with examples of each word can help increase kids' comfort in seeing a wide range of words.

Ask Questions Before, During, and After Reading

Asking questions before, during, and after reading helps check the child's understanding of the material and what's going on in the story. Before reading the book, a question you can ask is, "Based on the title, what do you think this book is about?" Don't be afraid to stop the child while they're reading to ask them questions about what's taking place on each page. An example question could be, What are character A and character B doing in this scene and why? At the end of the story, ask them their thoughts about the ending and what they would do differently.

Create Your Own Story

Empower children to use their imagination by asking open-ended questions and making predictions while reading. Use those predictions and challenge them to write their own endings, complete with illustrations to show off their artistic ability. This could be a group they share with friends and/or classmates. Writing can empower Black youth to write the stories they want to read.

Teachers have shared stories of the positive effects of students owning their voice and narrative, embracing their inner storyteller. Research from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute found that preschool early narrative skills were a significant predictor of emergent literacy for Black youth. A study from 2000 explored the effects of publishing on student attitudes toward writing and found that publishing their stories helps to connect students to the community and establishes a sense of pride in having their work on display.

Form a Children's Book Club and Celebrate Completion with a Game and Movie Night

Charisse Sims, PBS Early Learning Champion, parenting coach, and mom of six, shared what activities she and her husband do as a family to foster their kids' love for reading.

The family formed a book club called the "Paperback Cinema Club," where the kids and their friends read an array of books throughout the year. Once they've completed a book, they celebrate with a game night centered around the book's themes and a movie night if there is a film adaptation.

Reading and storytelling are infused into the Sims' everyday lives. "My husband is a poet," Charisse shares. "[He] has made up rhyming storytelling games that the children play in the car and/or on walks, all of which contribute to cultivating a love for literacy within them."

Reading is an opportunity for bonding, improving reading rates, and creating a healthy relationship with this critical life skill. Telling a child, they can't play outside with their friends until they read a few chapters can cause a negative association with reading. Instead, try taking a collaborative approach towards reading with your child(ren), like having them choose a book they're interested in and implementing any or all of the activities above. Let's shape tomorrow's leaders by creating avid readers in the household.

Jennifer Vassel is the author and founder of I Am Unique!, a children's media brand that inspires kids (and adults) to overcome their insecurities so they can share their unique gifts with the world. Her work promotes self-efficacy and engages students worldwide.

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