Every summer I worry that my daughter will lose the academic skills it took her all year to attain. If you have a child diagnosed with dyslexia, another specific learning disability, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I’m sure this “summer slide” has crossed your mind, too. So what’s the best way to help our children hold on to what they have learned?
Two words: summer reading. According to James S. Kim, Ed.D., assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, kids who read during t he summer tend to be better prepared academically – and need less review – for to prepare for back-to-school in the fall. Your child’s school website will usually have a summer reading list. Here is also a great list from The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity as well as a comprehensive list from ADDitude Magazine.
Increase Comprehension at Home
The first thing to remember is you don’t need to be (or act like) a teacher to help with reading. Summer reading shouldn’t feel like homework (I know…tell that to my 13-year-old). But the benefits of reading are undeniable. .
Reading improves comprehension and vocabulary, but children with reading issues often struggle making inferences with stories. This is a great opportunity to read together. If your child is young enough to want to read the book with you, you can discuss it as you go with questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” and “What do you think this character is feeling here?”
If your child is a little older, or too cool to read with you, get a second copy of the book or read ahead in their copy so you can discuss it.  Encourage older children to jot down a few notes every page or two so they easily go back and recall what they have read. This is a skill that will come in handy during the school year.
Fluency and Decoding
Fluency and decoding skills come with practice. The more you practice, the better you get. Taking the summer off from this kind of work can really cause a big drop in fluency skills, and for younger children, even their basic decoding skills.
Have your child read aloud. It doesn’t need to be the en
tire novel. But encourage them to continue this process to maintain or even increase their fluency. My youngest daughter will read to our dog, who I’m sure is really enjoying the novel Fish in a Tree this week. Reading to a pet can take the pressure off. If my daughter gets something wrong, it’s likely my dog will not correct her, but she will continue to practice her reading, which is the end goal.
More Options
Websites like www.greatschools.org offer many free worksheets that cover decoding, spelling, comprehension, and word games. Check with your local library to see if they are offering a summer reading program. Scholastic also runs a yearly summer reading challenge.
Even 20-30 minutes of reading a day will make a huge difference in your child’s skills. Setting the expectation early will also make a big difference in keeping up the momentum. In our house reading needs to be done before any type of electronics go on. I won’t say my kids love that rule, but I have a feeling they will thank me for it later.




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