Sidestepping the “Summer Slide”: Sixteen Skill Builders Your Child Can Do This Summer

-by Amanda L. Spicer-

School may be out for summer, but your child’s learning does not have to stop. According to a Johns Hopkins study, students can lose more than two months in reading achievement over summer vacation. A teacher’s nightmare, Summer Slide, is the learning loss that many school-age children experience over the summer due to limited or lack of educational opportunities. As with any skill, academics practice makes perfect. School is tough enough without starting a new school year two months behind.

Here are sixteen activities to boost reading and math skills to help your child stay ahead of the game this summer.

Read something every day. Have children read the newspaper, TV guides, menus, street signs, advertisements, or comics. Set an example. Allot a designated reading time for the family. Research shows that reading just twenty minutes a day, or just six books over the summer, may keep struggling readers from sliding. Books should be enjoyable for your child and not too hard or too easy.

Just six books over the summer may keep struggling readers from sliding.

Read aloud. This exposes children to vocabulary and story structure that they may not be able to read yet. You are modeling fluency, expanding knowledge, and increasing listening comprehension. Start a family book club. Take turns reading pages aloud with your child. Discuss the book to strengthen comprehension.

No books at home? Libraries host free summer reading programs with incentives and rewards. Take your child to the library and show her how to use it. Sign her up for a library card, and talk about this new responsibility.

Make time for money management. When paying with cash, let your child count the money due and check the change returned. For older children, let them calculate tips. If paying with checks or plastic, educate your children on what this entails. Let them set up a budget for their own money. They can keep a ledger like a checkbook to track their expenditures. Setting up a savings account is also a good idea.

Read the clock. Being able to read clocks, both digital and analog (the one with the big hand and the little hand) is important for children. Have an analog clock in your house, and randomly ask your child what time it is. She can check herself with the digital microwave clock. Talk with her about how long it takes to get to a destination. Let her decide when it is time to leave. When going somewhere, have her tell you arrival time, what time the event is over, and how long it lasted. Time is a complex concept, taking practice to understand. Being able to tell time will enable your child to set a schedule and develop time management skills.

Eric Peacock_Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA
Cooking brings together math, reading and following the directions all into one.

Cook together. Bring together math, reading, and following directions all into one. Find a recipe that your child can read. Let him measure the ingredients. Talk about fractions when measuring.

Play games. Allow children to read and summarize rules of the game. Do this every time the game is played. Rereading develops fluency, and summarizing directions helps with reading comprehension.

Encourage creativity. Websites such as and NGA Kids ( have great ideas to stimulate imagination and creativity. Encourage your child to make musical instruments from household items. Develop presentation skills by letting him perform his song, display his artwork, or read his writings for the family.

Volunteer. Encourage older students to volunteer. This is not only valuable for personal and professional development, but it looks good on college applications. Find something that interests your child, maybe something to help her learn about potential careers.

Let children read and summarize board game instructions.

Keep a journal. Document summer activities. Keep a log of summer trips. Let this journal be an outlet of feelings and creativity through writing.

Learn a language. Learn words in a different language. Try Spanish, French, sign language, or even Pig Latin.

In a flash. Make sight word flash cards on index cards. The same can be done with simple math facts.

Go on a field trip. Several educational opportunities are available in West Tennessee. Visit for a listing. Virtual field trips are also available online. Check out to “travel” anywhere in the world.

Going on a vacation? Give your child the tools he needs to plan part of the trip. Follow through with your child’s ideas so that he can see the benefits of planning. Discourage him from repetitively asking, “How much longer?” Instead, have him answer his own question and tell you how much longer.

In the car for a bit? Ask your child how to spell sight words. Keep old spelling lists from the past school year to go over. Call out quick math facts verbally. Work on letter recognition and ABC order by searching road signs and license plates for letters in order. Carry a printed map of the United States. Have children locate states as they see them on license plates, and make a tally chart.

Check with your school. Your school may have ideas to help avoid the “Summer Slide.”

It is inevitable that some “Slide” will happen, but don’t worry. Children need a summer break. They need learning to happen in new environments and in different ways. As educators and parents, we can help keep “summer slide” from holding our children back once the new school year begins.

Amanda L. Spicer is a teacher at Hillcrest Elementary in Troy, Tennessee. The 2015-2015 school year marked her 13th year as an educator. She’s worked with several grade levels, has been a reading recovery teacher, has taught special education and the gifted.