Use It or Lose It: How to Avoid a Ride on the Summer Slide

Ah, summer! A magical time for school-aged kids to finally relax, enjoy more free time, maybe hit the swimming pool and…risk losing 20-to-27 percent of their reading and math skills from the recent school year. 

Core reading skills are built in the early elementary years, where kids grow from phonetics and alphabetic recognition to decoding words and basic comprehension. While skill retention through regular practice is particularly critical for the Kindergarten through 3rd-grade set, whose foundational skills are still developing, it remains important for older elementary students as well. As kids grow into the “middle grades” (4th-6th grades), the acceleration of their learning actually levels off. They are still acquiring plenty of knowledge, but the intensity at which they are learning slows, as most are building upon previous learning. However, the risk of skill loss can increase for this age group, especially if any fundamental skills introduced in their early school years didn’t fully cement. In other words, if they don’t use it, they risk losing it. 

But, when private tutors aren’t always feasible and seemingly endless commitments make long summer days seem short, how do you fit it all in? Here are a few suggestions: 

Use Your Resources

Ahem, not to brag, but public libraries are a great place to start. We are known for the books, but we have many other engaging things to do…and we have air conditioning! With offerings in everything from crafts to robots to classes facilitated by a licensed teacher to online learning programs and take-and-make activities for the introverts, you are likely to find something to keep your little brainiacs active this summer. Not to mention the contests and prizes for kids participating in the Salina Public Library Summer Reading Program.

  • Grab a book, or two, or three. See What’s New at SPL. 
  • The Library has planned a summer full of learning fun! Check out a program on our Events Calendar and Register.
  • Pick up the Summer Learning Packets in the Technology Center available for grades K-8. The more packets completed the more prizes you could win.

Level Up

If you know your child’s last measured reading level (if you don’t, your child’s teacher could help), you can find books your child can read confidently. There are also book-finding methods for reluctant readers and those not yet in school. 

Info to know:

  • Leveled Books
    School districts use different reading programs, so if you don’t know your child’s program, reach out to the school or last school year’s teacher. Chances are it is one of four most common programs:  Guided Reading Level (GRL), Lexile Measures, Developmental Reading Assessment (DRL), or Accelerated Reader (AR)
  • Ask a librarian for help or, for the more self-sufficient, use one of several downloadable book leveling apps or websites, such as Scholastic’s Book Wizard or Accelerated Reader’s Book Finder. Using an app on a portable device, you can scan book barcodes and view reading levels.
  • Goldilocks Test
    Finding the just-right book is as easy as picking a book and counting to five.
    1. Pick a book.
    2. Have your child read one page.
    3. Hold up one finger for every error and use the following chart:
    0 – 1 = Too Easy (pleasure read)
    2 – 3 = Just Right (challenging but can be read independently)
    4 – 5 = Too Hard (can be read with a friend or adult)
  • Picture it!
    The end goal of reading is comprehension. To help beginning or struggling readers, books with pictures or artwork help to bridge connections between the decoding of words and their meaning. For older kids apprehensive about reading, graphic novels often hit the mark for both practice and kids’ preference.

Imagination Station

Bring your little ones to play and meet new friends at the beloved playspot in Youth Services at the Salina Public Library. If regular trips to the Library aren’t feasible, try to keep the kids off the electronics and into the outdoors as much as possible. Yes, this is easier said than done, yet worth trying (and putting up with any kid-sized objections). Creative play leads to better problem-solving abilities, social & emotional skill building, and improved concentration and attention, amongst many more benefits. 

Whatever this summer brings you and your kids, the Library is here to help!