Avoiding the Summer Slide

5 Things I’ve Read Recently

1. By sixth grade, 80% of the achievement gap is the result of the summer slides between kindergarten and sixth grade.1
2. Low-income students lose about three months of academic ground each summer due to the summer slide compared to middle-income students.2
3. Giving kids books to read during the summer may be just as effective as kids going to summer school, say researchers.3
4. “When kids own books, they get this sense, ‘I’m a reader,’ ” says Rebecca Constantino, a researcher at the University of California-Irvine. “It’s very powerful when you go to a kid’s home and ask him, ‘Where is your library?’”4
5. During the summer, teenagers use their cell phones at least one hour more every day.5

Here’s My Take on It

Kids love summer. They get burned out, just like adults, and they want a break from their regular school routine. Summer gives them that break. Unfortunately, the summer break is too long. If kids aren’t stimulated, they can backslide academically. (Ask a teacher what he or she thinks of the long summer break, and you’ll often get an earful about how much catching up teachers have to do with their students at the beginning of the school year.)

How kids spend the summer makes a big difference in how well they’ll make the transition back to school in the fall. Are they reading books? Are they taking a class? Are they involved in activities or sports? Are they going to camp? All of these are great ways to keep them engaged in learning. Some families take a summer trip, not just to relax, but also to learn something new. Some visit local history, science, or art museums (many of which have free or reduced-cost days). Some go digging for fossils. Some explore a new park, city, or state. Even going for walks and identifying different kinds of bugs and birds is a great way to get the mind moving.

The trick, however, is that many kids are tempted to spend a lot of their time watching TV, surfing the internet, or playing video games. Let them do some of those activities in moderation, while also ensuring that they’re doing activities that keep them learning in fun ways. At our home, we’re loading up with books. Our big goal is to see what we can learn from reading The Iliad and The Odyssey. This wasn’t what I chose for my summer reading. It was my youngest teenager’s idea. So we’ll see what develops by diving into these two epic poems.

Talk Further

Ask your partner or other adult: “What can we do to help our kids keep learning (in fun ways) during the summer?”

Explore Further

How are you helping your kids avoid the academic summer slide? Share your comments below.


1. Greg Toppo, “Free Books Block ‘Summer Slide’ in Low-Income Kids,” USA Today, June 1, 2010.
2-4. Ibid.
5. Charlotte Latvala, “Stopping the Summer Slide,” Good Housekeeping, June 2010.

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