In our last post on finding alternatives for the summer slide (the loss of academic skills and practice during summer months), we focused on math skills. Practicing reading skills is also crucial to maintaining a learning regiment during the summer — that much more so for low-income kids.

“On average, middle-income students experience slight gains in reading performance over the summer months,” according to Reading is Fundamental. “Low-income students experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of more than 2 months.” This achievement loss is cumulative, accounting for the major gaps in reading levels between income levels once students reach middle and high school — an up to 2 year gap in some cases.

An article in The Washington Post suggested several ways educators can do help, including offering students summer reading lists and distributing books.

It’s that last piece that’s crucial. Despite the emphasis on MindShift around new technologies that will help us learn, let’s forget the buzz about e-books and interactive book apps for a minute just to stress the importance of reading in all forms, including from good, old fashioned print. Many schools, libraries, community centers, publishers and bookstores sponsor reading programs and challenges. For example:

  • The Scholastic Summer Challenge encourages kids to track their minutes, read books, and compete for prizes. Last summer, participants read a total of 52,710,368 minutes, and they’re hoping to break the world record this summer
  • Barnes & Noble is offering a free book for every 8 that a kid reads.

Educators and parents: what are you doing to help keep kids reading over the summer months?

It isn’t just making sure kids can have their hands on books (of some sort) for summer reading. There are lots of other hands-on activities that help children keep sharp over the summer vacation. Stay tuned next week for some DIY science and technology project suggestions.

  • This is actually a very relevant topic to a project I have developed precisely to promote reading and writing in children. The initiative is called Rock Thoughts ( and it is a global art and collaborative storytelling project. The premise is simple: participants paint rocks to resemble “monsters” and hide them in public spaces for others to find. The finders of those rocks use the monsters as plot devices for stories to be submitted to our site and then the rocks are re-hidden for others to find and continue developing the rock’s narrative. Children can also write stories for rocks that are featured on our site “for adoption” or participate in a form of virtual crowdsourced storytelling. Not only is this is a great way to inspire creative writing (on an individual or collaborative scale) but it gives children access to free stories written from people all over the world and in multiple languages

    We have actually been working with a number of schools that have used Rock Thoughts as a way to promote literacy, encourage critical reading and feedback, and teach children how to collaborate on creative projects. I invite readers to visit the site and use it as a fun and engaging way to have your little ones continue developing their reading and writing skills over the summer.


      This is a clever idea! Thanks for the inspiration! What grades have you used it with?

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