ELLs and Summer Reading: How to #KeepKidsLearning

More than 4.5 million English language learning (ELL) students leave school each spring and face summer learning loss, otherwise known as the “summer slide,” just like their English-speaking peers. The difference? ELL students are often already academically at risk (particularly in literacy), and many spend the summers in homes where English is not the primary language. These students often wrestle with additional challenges that may include living in poverty, acclimation into a new culture, and single parent homes. 

Summer reading setback is a documented reality that impacts all students, but hits low-income and ELL students the hardest. During the school year, academic gains are similar across all socioeconomic groups, but the achievement gap widens during the summer, when low-income youth lose more than two months in reading achievement while their middle-income peers make slight gains.

Summer reading loss not only impacts student gains during the summer, but can also have real consequences on the following school year, when educators must reteach content from the previous year at the expense of new learning opportunities. Often, students can become frustrated in needing to relearn once-mastered skills.

How Can School Districts Help?

Research shows that access to books and literacy programs can not only limit the summer slide, but also increase reading achievement for ELL students. Since many ELL learners come from low-income houses, access becomes an issue. Limited books in the home, barriers to reliable transportation, and the inability to pay for summer reading programs can leave ELL learners destined for summer reading loss. Without access to high-quality summer reading opportunities, summer reading loss is all but a guarantee for ELL and other disadvantaged students.

To stave off summer reading loss for ELL students, districts can create affordable, effective summer learning opportunities focused on offering books that interest students and are at the right reading level.

Berwyn South School District 100, located just outside Chicago, provides a virtual summer school that encourages online, summer-long reading—ensuring students have continual access to reading materials. Between 70 and 80 percent of the district’s students are low-income, Hispanic students, who now have virtually no gap in high-quality literacy opportunities.

Learn how Berwyn South School District 100 built a blended summer school.

Like Berwyn South School District 100, districts can launch a program that builds essential reading strategies—including phonics awareness, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary—and can be used during both the school year and summer months to provide familiarity for both the students and educators.

How Can Districts Fund a Summer Solution for ELLs?

As districts explore ways to provide summer reading opportunities, it pays to explore federal funding that supports low-income students or implementing 21st-century learning opportunities, including:

As the ELL student population continues to rise across the country, it will become increasingly imperative for school districts to offer summer reading opportunities to their most at-risk populations.  

What will it cost to give every student their own digital library? Use myON’s calculator to explore digital versus print costs for your district.​