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Preventing the Summer Slide

By KP Carter Author of Summertime with Lizzie B. Hayes

So, is it hot enough for you? It is reported that we are in the midst of an official heat wave. Looking for a cool place to chill? If your air conditioner goes on the blink, check out your local library! Take your son, daughter or, a child in the neighborhood with you. Help prevent the summer slide.

“What is the summer slide?” You ask…it is what many students experience during the months that follow the end of the school year. Experts agree that students who read during the summer gain reading skills, and the opposite is true for students who do not. According to a report from the National Summer Learning Association, "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly twenty two percent of the school year. Educators often spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills."

During my years in the classroom, I often used the month of September and part of October re-teaching the previous year’s skills while implementing the current year’s curriculum. Although it was an arduous balancing act, it was a necessary endeavor. Of course, there were always a few students who spent their summer traveling, going to camp, and participating in various types of educational activities. Regular reading was a part of their summer. Yet there were far too many students who were not as fortunate.

With the increasing literacy demands that our students face, it is imperative that we address the summer slide. Educators, parents, the local community, and policy makers must continue to diminish the loss of learning by developing and implementing various strategies. We are all responsible.

  • Summer programs – summer school. Attendance is often voluntary and the neediest students do not always participate. Programs must be engaging, remediate necessary skills, provide enrichment and, include fun activities and field trips.

  • Mandatory summer assignments. Although all students do not complete the assignments even when a grade is attached, students can be invited to participate in the planning process. Incorporating an element of choice should be considered.

  • Summer reading clubs and incentives sponsored by the local public library. Many students must rely on an adult to bring them to the library and the adult’s work schedule may be a hindrance. Parents and caring adults can partner to ensure that children are able to participate.

  • Lengthen the school year - day. Although there is research based evidence that this has worked in some parts of the United States and other countries, many oppose longer school year/day. Policy makers, board of education and, community groups must work together to seek viable solutions. Additionally, we must ensure that what does happen during school hours is truly designed to prepare students to be college and career ready and cultivate the love of learning.

As a literacy advocate, I urge students to read, read, read throughout the summer. Whether they choose to read fiction, graphic novels, comics, or informational text - whether they love the feel of turning pages or- whether they opt to read by sliding their fingers across an electronic device - reading is one of the most effective ways to keep students on track academically throughout the summer.

Sharing books about real life events students can learn from, and relate to is essential. My debut children’s book, Summertime with Lizzie B. Hayes, is the story of an adventurous eight year old, three generations of her colorful family, and the eventful summer of 1967 when Lizzie and her Newark, NJ community were changed forever. The book transports readers to a simpler time when kids played outdoors until the street lights came on and most families gathered together around the dinner table. But the ‘60s was also one of the most turbulent times in our country’s history, Lizzie and her family experiences firsthand that fateful summer. The book offers young readers a glimpse of the 1960’s through the innocent eyes of a child, and provides adults with a resource to help children process life’s challenges.

Below are a few of my favorite resources to motivate students to read throughout the summer:

The American Library Association

The Brown Bookshelf

Just Us Books

Local bookstores

Local libraries

Bank Street College

A few recommended books:

Each Kindness

By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Penguin Young Readers Group

October 2, 2012

Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Maya is different; she wears hand-me-downs and plays with old-fashioned toys. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her gang, they reject her. Eventually, Maya plays alone, and then stops coming to school altogether. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship

By Russell Freedman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

June 19, 2012

This is a carefully researched account of two surprisingly parallel lives and how they intersected at a critical moment in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were both self-taught, both great readers and believers in the importance of literacy, both men born poor who by their own efforts reached positions of power and prominence—Lincoln as president of the United States and Douglass as the most famous and influential African American of his time. Though their meetings were few and brief, their exchange of ideas helped to end the Civil War, reunite the nation, and abolish slavery.

The First Girl Scout

by Ginger Wadsworth

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

February 6, 2012

Juliette (Daisy) Gordon Low was a remarkable woman with ideas that were ahead of her time. She witnessed important eras in U.S. history, from the Civil War and Reconstruction to westward expansion to post–World War I. And she made history by founding the first national organization to bring girls from all backgrounds into the out-of-doors. Daisy created controversy by encouraging them to prepare not only for traditional homemaking but also for roles as professional women—in the arts, sciences, and business—and for active citizenship outside the home. Her group also welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were usually excluded.

The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

March 18, 2014

"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventure of Spirit and Opportunity

By Elizabeth Rusch

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

June 19, 2012

On June 10, 2003, a little rover named Spirit blasted off on a rocket headed for Mars. On July 7, 2003, a twin rover named Opportunity soared through the solar system with the same mission: to find out if Mars ever had water that could have supported life. A thrilling addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series, The Mighty Mars Rovers tells the greatest space robot adventure of all time through the eyes—and heart—of Steven Squyres, professor of astronomy at Cornell University and lead scientist on the mission.

This suspenseful page-turner captures the hair-raising human emotions felt during the adventures with two tough rovers.

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters #1)

Rita Williams-Garcia

Harper Collins Publisher

January 26, 2010

In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache

by J Patrick Lewis, drawings by Matthew Cordell

Highlights Press

October 1, 2012

Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis shows how wickedly funny he can be in If You Were a Chocolate Mustache, his definitive collection of humorous poems. With 125 poems in 160 pages, illustrated with side-splitting black-and-white art from rising star Matthew Cordell, this book offers a potpourri of subjects: animals, school, weird things, wacky inventions, foods, computers, and more. Why should you never spit from a roller coaster? (You'll hit yourself.) What are the "Rules for Tightrope Walking Between Tall Buildings"? (Better not laugh and don't look down at the traffic) The poems display a lively range in length (from only a few words to multiple verses) and form (riddles, limericks, nonsense poems, haiku, shape poems, etc.), and all show why Lewis is such a beloved and honored poet. Matthew Cordell's expressive characters and humorous artwork are the perfect complement to the poems.

KP Carter has over 30 years of experience as a public school educator. In August 2016, she will retire from her position, Director of Language Arts and Testing, in a Northern New Jersey school district. KP is working on the Lizzie series and plans to continue writing and speaking about important literacy issues.

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