How to Encourage More Reading and Prevent the Summer Slide - Renaissance Australia
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How to Encourage More Reading and Prevent the Summer Slide

Thanks for joining the Renaissance Professional Development Team for another webinar, the final one for 2020! Below is a transcript of the webinar and you’ll find links to key documents and resources that we’ve discussed. Drop us a line at [email protected] if you have any questions!

What is the Summer Slide?

“Summer slide refers to the well-documented decline in children’s reading achievement that occurs during summer vacation. Summer slide has been shown to be cumulative, such that after many years of experiencing summer slide, children may be 2 or more years behind their peers in reading skills. Moreover, some research suggests that the annual accumulation of summer slide is a major factor in the growing achievement gap between successful and unsuccessful children through the primary grades and the extant literature suggests that children who are poor reader are more susceptible to summer slide given their lack of motivation to practice reading during the summer months.”[1]

What are the effects?

There are some dramatic effects that can occur in this 6 to 8 week break at the end of the year. Research outlined below has indicated that there can be an average of 2-3 months of reading proficiency lost for students who don’t read over the break. Considering that cumulative effect that Kaitlyn discussed, two thirds of the high school achievement gap is attributed to the loss of summer learning during their primary or foundational years. Further to this, the effects are felt even more in students from low socioeconomic households.

Further Impacts on Students from Low SES

Multiple factors that can impact or amplify the summer slide. One of which is the socioeconomic status (also known as SES) as well as the “cultural capital” of the student’s family. There is an extensive evidence base from the US particularly that implies that students from lower SES backgrounds are more likely to experience the summer slide than their peers. There are generally two factors that impact this.

The first is lower access to resources. Generally, students from lower SES backgrounds have less access to physical books and print resources. Even if they do have texts, they tend to select books with less print and play non-educational games on screens compared to their counterparts in higher SES communities.

Combatting the Summer Slide

So, we know it happens, but what can we do to combat the slide? For starters, it begins before the students leave for the holiday break.

There are a few strategies that you can start looking at preparing and implementing before the end of the term.

Increase access to differentiated instruction and texts: Summer reading that is differentiated is proven to be more effective than reading that is generic or homogenous to all students. Research shows that students’ reading comprehension is highest when they are reading texts within their zone of proximal development (ZPD), or “just-right” reading range. Asking all students to read the same books can be asking too much of some students, and too little of others.

Think about laying the groundwork for a summer reading challenge in the next couple of weeks before students go on holidays. We have put together a Summer Reading Tool Kit to encourage students to read over the holiday break. Think about creating accountability with student goals and setting challenges like a Summer Reading Bingo Challenge or encouraging students to set Summer Reading Goals.

Finally, even once students are encouraged to read to achieve goals or a rewards system that you may put in place, we have to acknowledge that choice is a powerful motivational factor for student reading. In one survey, nearly nine out of ten children said that their favourite books were the ones they had picked out themselves. Summer provides a great opportunity for students to explore topics that interest them or questions they’ve always wondered about. To assist with this, the school library may consider allowing a larger number of borrowed books over the holidays or encourage students to head to their local library.

Local Libraries

Libraries often have summer reading programs; evidence has found that students who actively participate in Summer Reading programs at local libraries don’t experience the summer slide as significantly, also a great differentiated approach.

It’s also a great opportunity to support local libraries who are a valuable community resource. Most public libraries rely on foot-traffic and borrowing numbers to ensure their funding is secure, however this is quite possibly at risk for many due to the coronavirus pandemic. Libraries are wonderful resources for physical books and as many of you are probably already aware, there are 48,000 titles on the Accelerated Reader program so chances are if a student is picking up a book there then it may have a quiz. Additionally, libraries are wonderful resources for access to technology. It does feel like many people have easy access to devices and can therefore access information at the touch of a button.

However, there are many students across the country who may not have access to a device at home. Providing your student with the myOn login details and then suggesting that they use library devices such as computers or tablets is a creative way to support those who may have limited access.

Reading at Home

Whilst access may not be an issue when they’ve got library books or myON, motivation and accountability can be. It is important that in the time we don’t see students in our classrooms, we’re encouraging parents, carers, siblings and friends to read with students. We’ve compiled a list of Family Reading Activities that you may choose to include in the last school newsletter or share to your school families, to help students read more at home.

Strategies like setting aside a time for reading, and even better, a special spot to read in like a fort, hammock or on the veranda can encourage more reading! It’s also important to work on building other literacy skills in conjunction with reading, consider drawing or visualising scenes from a text or predicting and writing an alternate ending.

Working with myON

We work with hundreds of schools across Australia to help incorporate myON into their regular teaching practice and we’re beginning to see the impact in can have when students are not at school too. During the lockdown period, Renaissance offered free access to myON for a 3 month period. In that time, we saw some incredible statistics. Students read over 100 million words in close to 70,000 books. They spent over 9000 hours reading which equates to 382 days of reading. It was truly such an incredible achievement.

myON provides each student with a library of digital books in order to expand student access and choice. Students can read either online or offline, using a range of devices. Embedded supports and scaffolds—including professionally narrated audio, an embedded dictionary, sticky notes, and highlighters—support student reading in the classroom and at home.

As children begin making their own—sometimes independent—choices about what they are reading, and begin to engage with digital media, it is important to help them develop sound digital literacy skills. You can find an extensive blog on digital literacy here.

At the end of the day, it’s apparent that we can’t afford to invest in close to 10 months of learning, growth, and hard work, just to lose months of progress each summer. When we consider that students who participate in quality summer learning programs realize the benefits for at least two years, it becomes all the more critical that we keep students engaged in reading and learning over the summer months.

If you’d like more information on myON by Renaissance, contact us now.

What about 2021?

We understand that it may be difficult to track students over the holidays, especially when you just want a break from it all yourself! So even though there are quick and easy ways to monitor in myON and promote reading and learning over the summer break, it’s just as important to assess students upon their return.

The start of year provides us with a great opportunity to see if there has been any decrease in ability over the break but perhaps even more importantly, allows us a baseline or platform to begin teaching from, informing practice and allows us to track progress over the course of the term and year. Star Reading and Star Maths offer computer adaptive diagnostic assessments to ensure students are met with an appropriate level of difficulty which informs our next steps using our Instructional Planning and Diagnostic reports. For more information about our assessment solutions, contact us here.


[1] Dynia, J., Piasta, S., Justice, L., & Library, C. M. (2015). Impact of Library Based Summer Reading Clubs on Primary-Grade Children’s Literacy Activites and Achievement . The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 386-405.