To young kids, summer break means fun and endless possibilities. But for parents, it often comes with a bit of added stress: There might be childcare to strategize, trips to plan, and, of course, the pesky summer slide to avoid. If you’re not familiar with the term, the summer slide is the loss of reading and math skills that many children experience during the summer months, when they’re not in school. Research shows that reading can help combat the summer slide, but it’s not just the act of reading that makes a difference — but also how kids are reading.
James Kim, M.Ed, an assistant professor of education at Harvard University, is the principal investigator for READS for Summer Learning, a program that seeks to improve children’s reading and comprehension skills throughout the summer months. Here are the three key things he says helps kids get the most out of summer reading, plus titles hand-picked by Scholastic Parents to help you get started.
Give Kids a Wide Variety of Reading Materials
It’s best if children have access to both narrative and informational texts they’re interested in, such as a factual book about space (like The Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal) and the latest installment of a fictional series they love (like Dog Man or The Bad Guys). “With summer reading, we want to help kids read for fun and understand that you should read just for the sake of reading itself, and not to do well on a test,” says Kim. “Access to a wide variety of books is really helpful in achieving that goal.”
Find Books at the Right Reading Level
Any books are helpful for boosting summer reading, but those that kids can understand are particularly important. “We wouldn’t want to give kids texts that are too hard, because in the summer, there’s no teacher available to provide support when they read,” says Kim.
You might try a trick called the five-finger rule. Ask your child to read a passage from a book (about 100 words is enough) and raise one finger for each word that is too difficult for them to read. If they have more than five fingers up, they may need a simpler book.
You can find age-appropriate books by joining the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge, a free, educational program in which your kids can enter their reading minutes to unlock exclusive digital rewards and donate books to children in need. Here are your guides to amazing book picks by age from the Challenge:
Talk About a Book’s Plot
Reading isn’t as useful or enjoyable if children don’t understand the point of what they’re reading, and they may sometimes need a little help to better understand certain books. This is especially true for younger readers: During read-aloud time, make sure you talk and ask questions about what you’re reading.
“Sometimes that might be saying, ‘Tell me about the favorite part of your book,’” says Kim. StoryPlay Books are a great option for this — these sweet stories come with prompts and activities to help your child think critically about the plot.
You can also ask your kids to read a passage out loud from their favorite book, or a book of age-appropriate poetry, and then read it a second time, adds Kim. After the second time, encourage your child to think about questions such as: “Did you know more words this time?” “Did you read with more expression?” “Did you read more smoothly?” This is all a part of increasing reading fluency, and chances are, your child will be proud of the progress made after just one extra reading!