The summer slide—the reading loss that happens when students are not in school for the summer months—is a well-documented reality that is a yearly challenge for educators and families. Recent research shows elementary students lose about a month of progress, and the loss is even greater for low-income students. During the school year, academic gains are similar across all socioeconomic groups, but the achievement gap widens as poorer youth’s reading skills slip further during summer.
The RAND Corporation analyzed current research on the summer slide, and found three essential components of quality summer learning programs that can lead to higher reading outcomes include:
Differentiated Instruction: Summer programs that provide personalized instruction were more effective than programs that did not differentiate. This likely comes as no surprise, as literacy research shows students’ reading comprehension is most successful when they are reading text at their level that becomes increasingly complex. Asking students to read the same books can be asking too much of some students, and too little of others.
Engaging Programming: Experts recommend programs that provide students with expanded learning through innovation and opportunities for enrichment. Engaging programming will encourage higher participation and ensure that students leap forward in their reading comprehension.
Evaluations of Effectiveness: Evaluating the effectiveness of current summer reading programs can help educational leaders discover what works well and what doesn’t, allowing them to adjust for future program development.
Other recommendations include providing reading and math instruction, using curriculum that mirrors regular school-year curriculum, and providing professional development opportunities to teachers.
The research found positive effects on student achievement from a variety of summer reading programs, including voluntary and mandatory summer programs, as well as also programs that encourage students to read at home in the summer.