The Achievement Gap, Summer Reading & 16 Activities to Keep Your Kids Learning this Summer
by Mandy Lining and Mr. Rob | May 27, 2018
As all of us teachers are wrapping up the school year, many parents are preparing to be at home with their kiddos for the majority of the summer.
These two or so months of being at home are a ton of fun for most families and kids (who doesn’t love summer?), but there is a bit of a hidden danger that’s sometimes called the “summer slide” or the summer reading gap.
For starters, it helps to realize that there exists an academic achievement gap between low-income students and high-income students. While many theories and reasons for this are certainly plausible and likely provable, one of the biggest causes is this idea of the summer reading gap.
The summer reading gap is simply the idea that the absence of reading and education in the summer months becomes a cumulative problem for kids over multiple years in school. In other words, children who don’t keep their reading and academics some what sharpened throughout the summer, fall behind those students that do.
Of course, playing sports, getting outside, and hitting the beach are summer musts, but there are very real consequences to ignoring your summer reading by just playing outside all summer, and today we’re going to hit the books to find lots of ways to keep our minds sharp this upcoming summer!
For most of us, the summer feels far too short, but those two months make up 16% of the year. For a growing child, that’s not a pretty substantial part of the year. Add that up over the course of elementary school (~5 years), and the difference between kids who read during the summer versus kids who don’t adds up to almost a full school year’s worth of learning.
Furthermore, students who don’t read during the summer take a little longer to get back into the swing of things come the fall, and so teachers end up having to spend the Fall reteaching things they taught in the Spring, making matters that much worse.
I first learned about the reading gap in 2008 while reading one of my all-time favorite books, Outliersby Malcolm Gladwell.
Gladwell uses longitudinal reading scores from K-4 kids in Baltimore Public Schools to show that low, middle and high-income children all gain academically during the school year, but that it’s in the summer months where the achievement gap occurs. Prior to Outliers, most people assumed it had more to do with the affluence of a school or an area, and not so much specifically to do with summer reading.
Adding up the summer following first through fourth grade, Gladwell shows that low-income children experience a net loss in their academic skills. By contrast middle and high-income children continue to grow academically by reading over the summer.
“Compared to low income kids, by the start of fifth grade, middle income kids’ cumulative reading gains are 27 times higher and high-income kids’ cumulative reading gains are 202 times higher…According to the National Summer Learning Association, summer learning loss during elementary school accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading between low-income children and their middle-income peers by ninth grade.”
Most parents are not even aware of this summer slide that their kids experience by not reading during the summer which is why today, we’re sharing 16 Summer Reading Activities to help make summer reading fun!
And just in case reading isn’t your child’s favorite activity (my little brother is notorious for never reading), you can try some educational games, audio books, or any number of educational activities (like Prodigies!) to keep young minds learning throughout the summer month.
You don’t need a strict diet of information and studies to beat the summer slide – just do something beyond going outside and playing tag all summer long! And for some inspiration, check out the list below!
1. Visit the Library
Whether it’s a rainy day or just too hot outside, the library is a great place to take the kiddos during the summer! You can stock up on all kinds of awesome books and take them home to read. Or, you can spend part of your day at the library reading books together with your child. On top of that, libraries usually have free weekly programs or activities that are geared toward children. Pick a day of the week that you’ll go to the library and get the kiddos excited about that day. Mark it on your calendar so they can see that it’s almost library time! Take them to the free kid’s program and then scope out the shelves for some new and exciting books!
2. Thrift Store Book Run
One of my favorite things is browsing through the used books at local thrift stores! I have found so many treasures buried within the shelves of these stores, including lots of older children’s books that may no longer be in print. Because the books are usually 50 cents, this is a great way to stock up on summer reading. One really neat idea is to gather up enough books to read one a day for an entire month. This can be done entirely through a thrift store run! To make this even more exciting, you can hide the book of the day somewhere in the house for your child to find. If they know they will have a new book, they will have something to look forward to when they wake up!
3. Read Outside
Many times we associate reading a good book indoors with a rainy day. But, reading outdoors can be so enjoyable when it’s a beautiful day! You can have a picnic and then spend some time reading on the blanket. A great book is A Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. You can pack a picnic with some of the food that’s listed in this book and then enjoy it while reading the story!
Reading under a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds is a great Mommy and Me activity as well. Pick a fun book, read a few pages, and then pause to gaze up at the sky. Take turns imagining what each cloud resembles. You can do a similar activity in the evening too. Grab a book and a lantern and find a spot in the yard where you can view the stars. Read the book by the light of the lantern under a blanket of twinkling stars! See if you can find various constellations or even a shooting star!
One more neat idea is to make a cozy reading nook outdoors. Find a spot in the yard where you can place a waterproof cushion and some stringed lights or lantern. Give your child some alone time to just sit and read. Or, nestle down beside them to enjoy a story together! (Don’t forget bug spray; otherwise, your story may be a little less than enjoyable!)
4. Read through the Alphabet
Start with letter A and pick a book that begins with that letter. The next day pick a book that begins with letter B. Next, find a book that starts with letter C. Continue this everyday until you have made it through the entire alphabet! For a great alphabetical book list, check out this list from The Measured Mom Also, Growing Book by Book has put together 60 book lists that are categorized by topic!
5. Make a Reading Nook
It may become boring reading in the same spot every single day. So, switch it up! Throw a sheet over the kitchen table and make a reading fort! Grab a flashlight and pretend your closet is a reading den. Create a reading nook outdoors where your child can read while listening to the sounds of nature. Making small changes like these can spark a new excitement in your child for reading!
6. Reading Incentive Program
A great way to motivate children to read is by incorporating an incentive program! Establish goals and rewards along the way the whole summer long! You could give rewards for your child reading one book a day or for a certain amount of time each day. Reward them on Friday of each week! Or, you could give rewards for reading a certain number of books. Give a reward every time they have read 10 books! Rewards can be simple such as a trip to get ice cream or another special dessert. Or, you could even do a bigger surprise such as a trip to the zoo or waterpark! You might also consider putting together an incentive chart. Once they reach their reading goal for the day, put a sticker on that day so they can see their progress. Be creative and keep it fun! Also, check out this awesome set of printables to track readings and some fun coupons for when your kiddos reach certain milestones from How Does She?
7. Book Based Summer Activity Calendar
Check out this awesome book based summer activity calendar over at Growing Book by Book! This program provides 3 calendars (June, July and August) which consists of weekly themes and activities. For example, one theme is “jumping.” The featured book is Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan. Activities for that week include counting how many times you can jump, naming all the animals you can think of that jump, jumping in a puddle, exploring a jumping colors activity, etc.
Each week of the summer has a book for the week as well as hands-on activities that go along with the theme. You receive all of the printable for just $3! The set includes 3 calendars (June, July, and August), 3 resource sheets, and 3 tracking sheets. Check it out! This is a great program for preschoolers through grade 2 that will keep them excited about books this summer!
8. Virtual Book Club for Kids Summer Camp
The Virtual Book Club for Kids Summer Camp is a 3 week/21 day online summer camp! In this camp, the kiddos will discover new books and authors, work on reading, math, and writing, and experiment with new artistic projects each week. The 3 weekly themes are Arts & Crafts, Science & Nature, and Cooking. Book lists and activities are provided for all 3 age groups so you’ll have your entire family covered.
I have already signed up my little boy for this camp, and we are super excited to start in just a few short weeks! You will receive everything you need for all 3 camps for only $24.99. The first camp starts June 11th, so hurry over to The Virtual Book Club for all the details!
9. Reading Scavenger Hunt
Modern Parents Messy Kids has as excellent reading scavenger hunt that you can print out for free! The print out is a full-colored map with 25 activities that lead your child into reading 25 different books. Some activities include reading a book that was written by your favorite author, reading a book about a place you’d like to visit, reading a book about your favorite sport, etc. The kiddos are sure to have fun with this one!
10. Chuck E. Cheese Reading Calendar
Chuck E. Cheese offers 10 free tokens to kids who read everyday. When your child has marked off each day, go into the restaurant to redeem! Just print the reading calendar!
11. Read to Your Child
Do you have a preschooler who can’t read on their own yet? If your little one can’t participate in some of the other summer reading activities, this is a great activity for them! One of my favorite memories is getting my little boy ready for naptime by reading stories to him. This list of 101 Books to Read to Kids Before Kindergarten from Growing Book by Book is a great way to spend the summer with your little one! Pick a book a day, and your child will be engaged in reading all summer long!
12. Go on a Nature Walk
Take a quick trip to the library and gather some books about nature such as butterflies, flowers, trees, birds, etc. Then, take a nature walk at a park with the kiddos! You can give them a list of things to spot in nature. Once they find them, stop for a few moments and read one of the books about the object that they found! When they’ve spotted a butterfly, pull out the book about butterflies. When they’ve spotted a flower, pull out a book about flowers! See how many different things you can find on your walk!
13. Barnes and Noble Reading Program
Children can earn a free book through Barnes & Noble’s Reading Program. Download the Summer Reading Journal to get started!
14. Sidewalk Reading
Do the kiddos need some more practice with sight words? What about one and two vowel words? If you’re needing a fun outdoor activity, try some sidewalk reading! Use chalk to write sight words and one and two vowel words on your sidewalk or driveway. Then, have your child read one of the words. Once they’ve read it correctly, they can throw a water balloon on that word! If they read all the words correctly, they get to throw water balloons at you!
15. Mommy and Me Storytime
Gather some friends with their children and read together! Each week you can take turns reading stories to the group. If you set up a weekly theme, you can find books to match that theme. You can also choose a themed snack and art activity to do after storytime. Give the kiddos some freeplay afterwards and provide coffee and treats for all the moms!
16. Prodigies Music Curriculum
This summer is a GREAT time to start Prodigies. This June, we’ll be…
- Rounding off Primary Prodigies Chapter 2 with lots more songs and lessons about Intervals
- Releasing another 4 episodes inside PsP Melodies
- Practicing more difficult listening games in “Name that Note” 6, 7, 8 and 9
Then in July, we’ll be…
- Hosting a week long online summer camp with 15+ activities to give you and your kids a 3 activities for a full week of Prodigies inspired learning (free!)
- Gearing up for the release of Playtime Prodigies in early August with lots of other surprises!
We hope this list gives you plenty of reading activities to keep reading fun and fresh for you and your kids!