Book Fairy's 3 Best Tips for Preventing Summer Slide
By Pam Leo, Family Literacy Activist

“Only 17% of parents of kids ages 9-11 [still] read aloud to their children. Yet 83% of kids ages 6-17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot.” -- Scholastic Survey.

This summer, instead of worrying about whether our children are reading enough to prevent the dreaded “summer slide,” let’s spend the summer filling children’s love cups with lots of read-aloud-together time. How about if this summer it’s the grownups turn to make sure “they” are reading aloud enough to prevent summer slide?

This has been an exciting year for me in the world of early literacy. I have both attended and presented trainings on early literacy. I have also become a volunteer reading partner working with first graders. Through these experiences I have learned some new things about children and reading and how we can make summer reading a more joyful experience for the whole family.
Tip #1
I learned about the benefits of book clubs. Summer is a perfect time to create a “Family-read-aloud Book Club.” Children are much less reluctant to put away their screens and be read to than they are to put away their screens to sit and read alone. Reading aloud as a family keeps everyone connected and having fun together. Even your babies, toddlers and preschoolers will love being part of the big kid reading action.

Reading aloud as a family each day, as well as reading with each child one-on-one, is a summer slide prevention strategy that maintains and likely improves reading skills. There is abundant research that shows that reading aloud to children of all ages supports them in becoming skilled readers who grow to love reading. When we read aloud to children they get to enjoy the stories because they are not getting bogged down in struggling to decode the unfamiliar words. Reading aloud also increases their vocabulary and models ?reading fluency.
Tip #3
What we read to children really matters. When we chose books about things children love they get excited for read aloud time. One of my first grade reading partners told me her favorite animal was a dragon. So, I began bringing books about dragons to read to her as part of our reading time together. Each week she became more excited to read with me and would immediately ask if I had brought another dragon book to read to her. Even though our brief reading partnership time became more and more about me reading dragon books to her than her reading her early readers to me, her classroom reading improved!

Children get excited about books about the things they love. Whether it’s books about ballet, baseball, horses, dinosaurs, trains or computers, children want to read about the things they love just like we do. Literacy is “my” passion, and I read every book, article and post I find that points the way to making learning to read easier and more joyful for children. No one has to force me to read those books. I do it because I am endlessly fascinated by every detail of early literacy. When I learn of a new book on the topic I can’t wait to get my hands on it, much like we eagerly anticipate the release of the next book in a series we are loving.
Tip #2
I have discovered a different way of supporting beginning readers. In my new role as a volunteer reading partner, I recently had the opportunity to implement a way of reading “with” beginning readers called dyad or tandem reading. The adult or older sibling and the child read the text aloud together. The adult readers slide their fingers along the sentence, which allows the child reader to see and hear the words at the same time. This way they get to read the words they do know and learn the words they don’t know.

My experiences of tandem reading with first graders are that they love it! It is kind of like reading with training wheels. Children become more confident in reading aloud because we are right there reading the same words with them and will read the words they don’t recognize yet. It was amazing to me how quickly they would be able to fluently read a word they had skipped or stumbled over the very next time it appeared in the text. Reading together in this way is much more joyful that sitting and silently watching a child struggle to sound out words.
No matter what other summer activities or trips we have planned, or how many different directions family members are going in this summer, Family-read-aloud Book Clubs can be both a touchstone of family togetherness and the summer reading that maintains and improves children’s reading skills. Remember, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” -- Stephen King

Fan that I am of Thornton Burgess books, I am recommending one that is new to me that I plan to read this summer. Thornton Burgess books capture the interest and hearts of the whole family.

Pam Leo, is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting, and a new poem, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children's books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents, are combined in her new role as the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is "No Child With No Books," because "Books change children's lives... For good."