Children who love to read will do so without much encouragement, but there are also those who may not pick up a book at all for the six to eight weeks they have off school over summer.
Research conducted in the USA has shown that reading proficiency can decline quickly over the holidays, particularly when children either reduce their reading or do not read at all during that time. This means their literacy skills are lower than expected when they return to school, and has been called the ‘summer slide’ or ‘summer learning gap’. It makes encouraging and motivating children to read over the summer holidays incredibly important.
Many public libraries help by offering fun activities, and there's a national Summer Reading Club available online with recommended reading, plus games, competitions and downloadable activities, all linked to an annual theme. This year they’re celebrating adventure, and registrations have already opened!
Here are a few tips about helping your children avoid the summer slide:
- Read aloud every day
- Remember that reading isn’t just about books - read other things too (menus, street signs, labels etc)
- Have lots of reading material of all kinds available
- Visit your local library regularly
- Listen to an audio book
- Play games and activities that involve words, like scrabble, crosswords and find-a-words
- Ask your children about what they are reading
- Keep a holiday diary or scrapbook
- Encourage children to have a go at writing their own stories
- If you watch a movie inspired by a book, find a copy of the book to enjoy as well
- Give books or book vouchers as Christmas gifts!
Want to know more about the ‘summer slide’? Try starting with these quick links:
- Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap (AdolescentLiteracy.org)
- Why Summer Learning Deserves a Front-Row Seat in the Education Reform Arena (Johns Hopkins School of Education)
- Summer Reading Loss (Reading Rockets)
Sarah Steed is our Consultant Librarian and reviewer. A former Children's and Young Adult Librarian, she has more than 18 years' experience working in public libraries. Sarah comes from a family of readers and has shelves full to bursting with books.