Saturday, June 10, 2017

Putting the Brakes on Summer Slide: part 1

One of my mom jokes (like dad jokes, only they mostly consist of me saying intentionally annoying things to entertain myself) is asking the kids, "Have I mentioned how much I love summer?" every few days all summer long.

Because I LOVE summer.  My birthday is right smack dab in the middle of it.  You can go swimming outside.  There are campfires and ice cream and wildflowers and road trips.

And yes, I'm a teacher, so I do get vacation.  It's not three solid months of sitting by the pool, but it is two solid months of not having a set schedule. It's actually the best time to do professional reading and long term planning, since my brain isn't constantly fried by the work/home hamster wheel.

But the best part (well, one of the best parts) is having time to read.  I can tackle longer works, or plow through an entire mystery series.  Get caught up on what my students are reading, or what my mother-in-law recommends.  Read in bed, read on a hammock, read at a campsite, read on a lawn chair.  Summer is the perfect time for reading.


Have you heard about the summer slide?
Like this, but not at all cool or fun.  So, not like this.

It's a term used to explain what happens to kids' knowledge and learning over the summer.  Not kids like I was, who go to summer camp and grandma's house the next state over and to the library and the park and pottery classes.  But the kids whose folks can't afford any of that.  The kids who are home alone with the TV (dating myself there!) on their devices all day.  The kids who are NOT home alone, but are responsible for younger siblings.

During a typical summer, middle class kids (as defined by not qualifying for free/reduced lunch) make minimal progress in their reading level and other academic areas.  Low income kids, however, go backwards.  This means that even if they are learning at the same pace as their peers, they get further and further behind each vacation.


How to combat this?  Read!  Studies show that kids from low income families with access to plenty of books actually make more gains than not just book-deprived peers, but high income kids who have access to books.  However, getting books into kids' hands is the big challenge.  "Book deserts" a term developed by Unite for Literacy, describes homes with fewer than 25 books available.

"But the library is free!" we say.  Which, it turns out, is easy for us to say.  We have a car to get there if it's more than a mile away.  We are comfortable asking the questions and filling out the forms to get a card issued.  We aren't anxious about providing id in this time of hostility towards immigrants.  If we rack up a few dollars in fines, we can pay without cutting into our grocery budget.

But for many, if not most, of my students, very little of this is true.  I can't tell you how many times I've surveyed my students to find out who has a library card and heard a lot of "no" and several "I used to, but then we lost a book and now we can't use it any more."

A couple of months ago I participated in my first Twitter chat (I know!  I'm proud of me too.) which was about how to combat these issues.  I got a lot of ideas. Now, I tend to be a person who gets a lot of exciting ideas but struggles with the follow through.  So in part 2 of this riveting series, I'm going to talk about what I got excited about and what I actually ended up doing to help my students keep reading over the summer.


  1. I want one of those slides next to the stairs. No more steps for me!

    I wish all teachers were as dedicated as you. Your students are lucky that they have a teacher who really cares about their education and makes an effort to understand their home lives.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I can't wait to see how it goes. I think that writing on it on your blog might help with follow-through!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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