Submitted by Joanna A. Christodoulou
Reading activities during the summer can play an important role in helping students maintain their reading skills. Summer slump, or the potential for academic skills to regress during school vacation, is a concern for many students.
Children with language-based learning disabilities may be at a higher risk of summer slump than their peers (Christodoulou et al., 2015). More generally, children who may also be more vulnerable to summer slump are those that take a vacation not just from school, but also from engaging with text during the summer months. These reduced reading experiences may be because students don’t enjoy reading; they may not feel good about their reading skills; they have limited access to the library or books at home. In addition to options to enroll students in summer reading instruction, camps, or related activities, other options are accessible to all families at little to no financial burden. Parents can help by considering three goals.
First, parents and children can set a reading intention together about what to achieve during the summer. A reading intention can describe what to do and how it will be done. The focus does not have to be on the total number of words read, but can also be on what each child wants to learn about (e.g., the solar system, gardening).
Second, identify the correct reading level for your child. To do so, you may seek assistance from your school or library staff. One rule of thumb for texts appropriate for a child to read independently is that they read five or fewer words incorrectly for every 100 words in the text. Independent level texts can be read by the student on his/her own, or students can read these texts aloud to others. Keep in mind that texts that are more challenging should not be excluded from summer reading lists as these may be great candidates for parents and children to read together.
Third, parents can identify their child’s areas of interest. Collecting topics that are intriguing, exciting, informative, and of interest will be key to selecting high interest reading material that children are motivated to read (Kim, 2007). More importantly, the motivation to learn about high-interest topics by reading can help struggling readers overcome some barriers; this is a common trait shared among successful adults with dyslexia (Fink, 1998). To access appropriate texts, families can visit the local library, enjoy book swaps with neighbors, or explore free online texts (see http://textproject.org/classroom-materials/students/summerreads/, where families can find free books across a wide range of reading levels).
For children with language-based learning disabilities in particular, summer vacation provides an opportunity for positive reading outcomes, but to achieve this, reading must be integrated into summer activities.
Christodoulou, J.A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A.J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2015). Impact of intensive summer reading intervention for early elementary school children with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities.
Fink, R. (1998). Literacy development in successful men and women with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 48, 311–346.
Kim, J.S. (2007). The Effects of a Voluntary Summer Reading Intervention on Reading Activities and Reading Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 505-515.
About the Author:
Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.
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