Avoid the Summer Slide: Tips for Parents

There’s just a special kind of vibe during the summer. The laid-back atmosphere allows our minds and bodies to relax and take a break. Kids of all ages take this opportunity to go swimming, hang out with friends, and not worry about the pressures of school.

However, while it’s important to take advantage of this time to rest and re-set, it’s just as important to keep kids academically engaged to some capacity.

The summer slide is a term used to explain learning loss that takes place over the summer.

Each family and child is different, so luckily there is no one way to avoid the summer slide. When choosing learning activities for your child, there are a few ideas to keep in mind.

  1. What are some areas of weakness that my child has?
  2. What is my child interested in doing?
  3. How much time do I want my child to spend doing “school work”?
  4. Do I want a specific schedule?
  5. Do I want to do activities with my child?
  6. Do I want my child to do activities independently?
  7. Do I want to invest in workbooks, books, camps, tutors, etc.?
  8. Are there local learning opportunities near me?

Some parents choose to do “school” in the mornings Monday-Friday, while others choose to do weekly tutoring sessions (for more information on tutoring check out Virtual Tutoring Services). Kids of all ages should spend 20 minutes each day engaged in learning activities.

Once you get a better idea of what you want for your child, it’s time to pick some activities!

Assignments.

Activity Books. These are fantastic go-to products for parents because there is no prep work involved and there are answer keys :). There are TONS of options for parents to choose from so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. I always recommend that parents get workbooks for the grade their child was just in. Why? To ensure there are no learning gaps and to prepare for the upcoming year. Of all the different workbooks out there, the following three are my personal recommendations.

  1. Spectrum. I’ve been using these books with my students for the last decade. They are easy enough for kids to work independently and cover all the skills required for each grade level.
  2. Flash Kids Editors. I’ve seen this series for years, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really took a close look at these workbooks. I really like that these activities are more application based, so students are using a variety of skills on each activity, especially for writing. They are also available as individual subjects, whole curriculums and test prep, so there are options for P-8 students.
  3. Summer Bridge Activities. These workbooks are geared towards helping students make the transition to the next grade during the summer. The activities are meant to be 15 minutes long so the tasks don’t feel overwhelming.

Summer Reading Assignments. For older students, there are usually school assigned activities that need to be completed before the first day of school. Many times this includes reading a book, taking notes, writing an essay, etc. Summer assignment information can usually be found on the school’s website. My best piece of advice with summer assignments is don’t wait until the last minute! Sometimes the book choices can be challenging, so it’s important that students have enough time to read and complete any tasks. Reading the SparkNotes versions of the texts aren’t usually enough to complete assignments.

Travel

Vacations. One of the amazing aspects about literacy is that it’s everywhere! You just have to know where to look for it. Instead of using GPS, spend some time showing your child how to read a map and help he/she plan your route. If you’re going to a place like Gettysburg, do some research as a family about the area before you get there. During road trips, playing the Alphabet Game is fun ways to practice letter recognition skills.

Day Trips. Taking the time to go to different places helps build a child’s background knowledge that will be used the rest of his or her life when it comes to reading. Local towns have historical landmarks, festivals, and events throughout the summer that kids of all ages can learn from. There are also destination locations that can be fun and educational. For instance, growing up we went on a day trip to Crystal Cave and learned about stalagmites and caves. On these outings, read any information you come across (plaques, brochures, etc.) and listen to the tour guides.

Read

Independent reading. This is the easiest go-to avoid the summer slide activity. Kids can read anywhere, so always make sure to pack them a book. When choosing a great summer reading book for kids, take advantage of lists provided by local libraries or ones created by teachers. I’m currently LOVING book lists by Imagination Soup because of the different search options and book descriptions. Libraries and companies like Scholastic have summer reading challenges that add an extra layer of fun.

Read-aloud. I’ve always been a fan of read-alouds, in my classroom and home. With the flexibility of summer, reading aloud can happen anywhere and any time. Take a blanket into the yard and have a picnic while reading a chapter or two. While waiting in traffic, have your child read to you from the read-aloud book. Audiobooks are fantastic for family road trips.The reading possibilities are literally endless. For read-aloud ideas check out Reading Aloud Resources for Parents.

Whatever activities or learning opportunities you and your family participate in, remember to still use summer to have fun and relax.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Skating Shoes Book Review

As readers, we all have books we re-read. We could just love the characters, the story, or it’s associated with memories. I was fortunate to be very close to my maternal grandparents growing up and one summer they took us girls to Cape Cod for a week. I can still remember walking around a book store and finding three books that immediately became my favorites: Ballet Shoes, Theater Shoes, and Dancing Shoes. On the drive home I was transported into those English, theatrical worlds.

A few years later, a friend of mine mentioned her favorite of those books was Skating Shoes.  I would look for it in Barnes and Nobles (it’s weird remembering a time before Kindle and Prime) but I was never able to find it. Then, in March, I saw that Random House re-released Skating Shoes and I HAD to get my hands on it.

Skating Shoes by Noel Streatfeild is a charming novel about two friends, Lalla and Harriet, who experience the world of ice skating together.

The novel was originally published in 1951, and it definitely has a more classic feel to the writing. The story takes place in England, and kids are introduced to some English words and expressions. It was nice to take a break from more modern texts with technology and enjoy a simpler time.

Streatfeild has a way of developing such realistic characters. Lalla and Harriet could not be more different from one another. Lalla has grown up being told she is going to be a famous skater with her wealthy aunt, and Harriet comes from a poor, loving family. Both girls have sass, spunk, and determination that show young girls it’s okay to be unique. Readers can relate to pieces of the characters, and will smile at some of the cheeky dialogue. I especially like the conversations with Harriet’s younger brother Edward.

Personally, I would consider this a girly book, and would recommend it for kids in grades 3-6. The vocabulary is not complex, but the text is quite long (281 pages). It’s a fun read that shows the importance of friendship, family and determination.

Summer Reading Challenges

As a kid, one of my favorite aspects of summer vacation was all the reading time. Even better was when I had a goal I was trying to reach. My town had a Read-a-Thon for each grade in elementary school and I wanted to win a medal sooooo badly. Prizes were determined based on how many pages students read during the summer, so I took my reading extremely seriously. I never won my medal (although I can still tell you who did) but that incentive gave me an extra boost to read.

If you’re looking for ways to motivate kids to read, check out some of the ideas below.

Summer reading programs at your local/school library– I volunteer at my local library once a month, and it is covered with summer reading ideas for kids. There are workshops, activities, and a summer reading club. There are also story times, BYOB (bring your own book) events and mommy and me reading times.

Barnes and Nobles Book Challenge– Barnes and Nobles is holding a summer reading challenge for kids where they can earn a free book! Kids fill out a reading journal and once they have read 8 books they are eligible for a free book based on their grade. For more details, click here.

Scholastic Read-A-Palooza– This is a totally awesome challenge. According to Scholstic, “Over the course of 18 weeks, kids can enter their summer reading minutes online, unlocking digital rewards as they complete weekly reading challenges; and access book excerpts, videos, and other summer-exclusive content.” But wait, it gets even better!! When kids collectively reach certain reading minute milestones, Scholastic, in collaboration with United Way, will donate books to kids in need across the US!! To sign up to be part of this AMAZING challenge, click here.

Brightly Reading Challenge- I’m a Brightly fan (check out my ideas on using Mad Libs here). This year they have separate reading challenges for preschoolers- teens. I love that they give kids different reading ideas that are age appropriate. They also provide paths to additional reading lists. To see these ideas, click here.