Chutes and Ladders; Facing the Summer Slide

How can educators and parents prevent hard-earned reading skills to diminish over a summer break?  Read below to find out.

By EllieWilkie

‍The summer slide refers to theknowledge children lose during the summer break. Critical math and readingskills are forgotten over the summer, rendering kids unprepared for the nextschool year. That loss is cumulative, and with an average of 2 months worth oflearning lost every summer, by the time a child reaches high school they canhave lost up to two years worth of material. 

So what causes the summer slide? Asalways: a combination of things, but at the end of the day, most kids simplystop reading. That three month pause in reading and math practice not onlyfails to improve students’ skills, but allows them to regress at an alarmingrate. Many schools have tried to remedy this by handing out summer readinglists and math packets, yet kids continue to slip down the slide. A studyrecently run by Scholastic shows that the summer slide is just as pervasivenow, in the presence of an overwhelming number of high-school run readingprograms, as it was in the 70s, when such programs were only emerging. 

Schools can pump out as many readinglists as they want, but if kids aren’t engaged in what they’re reading, theeffort will be for naught. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make itdrink, and you can give your kid a thousand books, but you can’t stop him fromskimming them. 

Caroyln Ross, a high school Englishteacher, describes the situation: “Most students use this time afforded to themto swap summaries of books with simple plots, to recall what books they mighthave read with their middle school English classes and never tested on, or tocalculate how many three-point Dr. Seuss books they would have to test on toreach their assigned point value. Watching them game the system, it seems ittakes more work to successfully not read than it would to just pick up abook.” 

During the school year kids discuss whatthey’re reading, complete projects, and practice the vocab words theyencounter. Over the summer, most kids are reading just to check off boxes. Kidsaren’t sore for a lack of reading; what they’re missing is engagedreading. 

 So how to pursue a summer ofengaged reading? Try games like Bananagrams, Boggle, or Scrabble to practicevocabulary and spelling. Introduce different types of reading material likemagazines, activity books, and poetry or listen to an audiobook on car rides.Read aloud to your child and have them read aloud to you, or check locallibraries for read aloud programs if reading #47 in the Nancy Drew series isn’treally your thing. Try a reading program that’s interactive and engaging. Insummary, have fun with it. Summer is still summer, and while kids shouldn’t befalling behind, they also shouldn’t dread summer reading more than they doschool itself. 


Goldberg, Ariel. “What Summer SlideACTUALLY MEANS-AND 5 Ways to Fight It - Edsurge News.” EdSurge, EdSurge, 27June 2019,

“How to Prevent Your Kids from LosingWhat They Learned in School during Summer Vacation.” Scholastic, 

Quinn, David M., and Morgan Polikoff.“Summer Learning Loss: What Is It, and What Can We Do about It?” Brookings,Brookings, 14 Sept. 2017, 

Ross, Carolyn, et al. “The Problem withSummer Reading.” The Millions, 30 Aug. 2019, 

“The Reality of the Summer Slide.”GoGuardian,