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summer reading

Prevent Summer Learning Loss Before It Happens

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, May 30, 2017 Byline:  By Joanna A. Christodoulou

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"Reading must be integrated into summer activities."

Reading activities during the summer can play an important role in helping students maintain their reading skills. Summer slump, or the potential for academic skills to regress during school vacation, is a concern for many students.

Children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, may be at a higher risk of summer slump than their peers (Christodoulou et al., 2017). More generally, children who may also be more vulnerable to summer slump are those who take a vacation not just from school, but also from engaging with text during the summer months. These reduced reading experiences may be because students don’t enjoy reading; they may not feel good about their reading skills; or they have limited access to the library or books at home. In addition to options to enroll students in summer reading instruction, camps, or related activities, other programs are available to families at little to no financial burden.

Parents can help by considering three goals

First, parents and children can set a reading intention together about what to achieve during the summer. A reading intention can describe what to do and how it will be done. The focus does not have to be on the total number of books read, but can also be on what each child wants to learn about (e.g., the solar system, gardening, etc.). Creating a certificate or written agreement that both parents and children sign can offer a fun way to support this commitment. This goal can also be achieved through summer reading programs offered locally in libraries or community centers.

Second, identify the correct reading level for your child. To do so, you may seek assistance from your school or library staff. One rule of thumb for texts appropriate for a child to read independently is that they read five or fewer words incorrectly for every 100 words in the text. Independent level texts can be read by the student on his/her own, or students can read these texts aloud to others. Keep in mind that texts that are more challenging should not be excluded from summer reading lists as these may be great candidates for parents and children to read together. Identifying your child’s reading level for books she or he can read independently and those she or he can read with a partner is an important goal to aim for before the end of the school year.

Third, parents can identify their child’s areas of interest. Collecting topics that are intriguing, exciting, informative, and of interest will be key to selecting high interest reading material that children are motivated to read (Kim, 2007). More importantly, the motivation to learn about high-interest topics by reading can help struggling readers overcome some barriers; this is a common trait shared among successful adults with dyslexia (Fink, 1998).

Several organizations offer online texts for students with dyslexia. TextProject offers free books across a wide range of reading levels. Bookshare is a free online library that offers ebooks for students who have challenges accessing print. The Perkins Library offers free reading resources (e.g., audio, large print books, playback equipment) for Massachusetts residents with reading disabilities. Learning Ally offers audiobooks that can be useful for pairing with texts (i.e., listen and read at the same time) that students may otherwise have some difficulty reading independently.

In addition to supporting positive reading experiences during the summer months, families may consider contributing to research efforts aiming to improve outcomes for struggling readers. Supporting area researchers is a way to empower families and children with reading disabilities or difficulties, advance the science of reading, and meet other community members invested in supporting reading development. These opportunities range in their time commitment, gift card and prize offerings, and location. More information can be found on the website of the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

For children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, in particular, summer vacation provides an opportunity for positive reading outcomes, but to achieve this, reading must be integrated into summer activities. To access appropriate texts, families can visit the local library, enjoy book swaps with neighbors, or explore online reading opportunities.

Christodoulou, J.A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A.J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2015). Impact of intensive summer reading intervention for early elementary school children with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Fink, R. (1998). Literacy development in successful men and women with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 48, 311–346.

Kim, J.S. (2007). The Effects of a Voluntary Summer Reading Intervention on Reading Activities and Reading Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 505-515.

About the Author:

Joanna A. Christodoulou Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

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Tags:  dyslexia language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning disabilities reading struggling reader summer summer reading summer regression summer slide summer slump

The Importance of Summer Reading

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Sunday, May 19, 2019

student reading a book outside

By Kristine Burgess

Over the school year students receive instruction that should focus on developing skills and making academic gains, but what happens when they leave school for the summer? In order to prevent regression of reading skills in the summer months, it is essential that students engage in summer reading. Oftentimes, school systems have a summer reading requirement, but summer reading should go beyond assigned reading. Students should also be encouraged to read materials of interest to increase their motivation toward reading.

The purpose of summer reading is not only to prevent regression of skills but also to reinforce retention and growth of reading skills. Research continues to support the fact that the best way to improve reading is to practice reading. Therefore, students should be encouraged to read both silently and orally over the summer months to continue developing their reading skills.

According to the Texas Literacy Initiative, a student who reads 21 minutes per day outside of school reads almost two million words per year. A student who reads less than a minute per day outside of school reads only 8,000-21,000 words a year (2002). In addition to basic word exposure, increased reading leads to the expansion of background knowledge and vocabulary. Generally, students with a language-based learning disability (LBLD) have less experience interacting with text, and, as a result, their vocabulary, word knowledge, and background information suffer compared to non-LD students. Therefore, students should be encouraged to take every opportunity to increase their exposure to and with vocabulary, a range of reading topics, and texts of varying difficulties to increase word exposure.

Interacting with Text Boosts Comprehension

Ideally, students should be asked to interact with their reading text in a way that provides for feedback and increased comprehension. In order to interact effectively with the text, a more successful reader could read with the student and provide feedback on decoding errors, overall fluency, and comprehension strategies. Additionally, students could be asked questions about events and characters from the text, which would showcase their level of understanding.

At the end of the day, parents should not have to engage in a large battle with students over summer reading. For the very reluctant reader, parents and school systems should encourage graphic novels, game directions, project manuals, and the like as potentially worthwhile summer reading in addition to assigned novels. While many students will be resistant, what they are reading is far less important than the fact that they are reading.


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About the Author

Kristine Burgess

Kristine Burgess is the head of the Reading Department and a teacher at Landmark School.


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Tags:  summer slide language-based learning disabilities literacy summer reading
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