Don't let the "summer slide" throw young children's academic progress off track.
The "slide" is not just a catchphrase. Studies show that academic regression does occur in students during the summer break. Reading skills, for instance, can diminish if a child skips the opportunity for a few months.
Last week, the newspaper received information from Dr. Steven Witt, director of Concordia University Wisconsin's graduate education program that's worth repeating here. He noted that sharing the joys of reading with children gives them the building blocks for understanding the world.
Witt offered these five tips to combat a stall in a child's academic progress this summer:
• Visit the public library every week. Witt said research shows that giving access to books is one of the most important factors in successfully teaching children to read. Public libraries offer an abundance of books for all ages, helpful librarians, and a very nurturing environment for the child. Schedule a summer outing to your local library and you'll find limitless choices for children to find something interesting for them to digest. If you can't make it to your local library there are other options. "Little Libraries" are continually popping up in neighborhoods and public areas nationwide, and school book fairs, garage sales, or online shopping offer great (and inexpensive) options for stocking up on literary treasures.
• Help your kids discover their "just right books." The best books for children to read are the ones they're interested in. Witt says that finding the right genre, author, or topic can deeply spark a lasting interest in reading in general. It could be comic books, magazines, or even books that have a lot of pictures. Like finding a pair of shoes for your kid, the right book has to fit. When a child is entertained by their reading pursuits, it builds confidence in their abilities, and they'll surely want to share what they've learned with everyone. Around the third grade, Witt says much of a child's reading is consumed by textbooks for school, which can be an intimidating change. With a solid foundation in reading prior to this, it can be much more approachable for the young pupil.
• Model the pleasure of reading with your own "just right" books. "Just like smiles are contagious, so is reading," says Witt. Children learn the most by watching others, especially the people they look up to. When brothers, sisters, and those surrounding a child read, they will often follow suit. It rubs off on them.
• Ask questions, make inferences and predict endings. Engage in a dialogue when helping kids understand what they're reading. It is a great opportunity to practice more nuanced communication and look deeper into the books they have. Witt suggests several topics to practice discussing with a child. He says to identify themes and summarize plots. Making personal connections is especially valuable. Why does a character act in a certain way? What would I do in their situation? Dr. Witt explained that reading is a mirror to the self. Looking at characters helps to understand people and how they interact with the world.
• Journal your summer reading. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Help your child log what they're reading, the genre, and the author to help keep track of a child's progress over the summer. This can help them identify their "just right" books from the bunch. They can write what they notice in their books and other important observations as mentioned. The chance to practice writing through journaling books will help a child read independently, which is an important goal in teaching lasting literacy.
With each of these steps, Witt said, take advantage of those moments of free time in your days and use it to practice one of the most valuable skills they will ever obtain. By encouraging children to find pleasure in literacy, other things seem to fall in place.