Summer Reading Loss


Summer reading loss is a well-documented phenomena that affects many students. It is of particular concern for those learners who are already considered to be “at risk.” Summer reading loss is also identified as being more significant in students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Many of these children have limited access to books at home, or have parent/caregivers who are unsure of how to help them.

How Significant Is Summer Reading Loss?

Summer reading loss has been the subject of research for many years. A recent article in Issues and Trends in Literacy by Maryann Mraz and Timothy Rasinski states: “A review of 13 empirical studies representing approximately 40,000 students found that, on average, the reading proficiency levels of students from lower-income families declined over the summer months, while the reading proficiency levels of students from middle-income families improved modestly. In a single academic year, this decline resulted in an estimated three-month achievement gap between more advantaged and less advantaged students. Between grades 1 and 6, the potential cumulative impact of this achievement gap could compound to 1.5 year’s worth of reading development lost in the summer months alone. (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay and Greathouse, 1996).”

How Can Schools Support Reading Development Over the Summer Months?

Reading Instruction

  • Providing students with successful reading experiences (matching children to books appropriate to their level, using high-interest reading material, etc.) could give them the confidence to read voluntarily over the summer.

Providing Access To Reading Material

  • Most public libraries have a fun summer reading program. Inviting a librarian to visit the school and talk with parents would create awareness of these programs. This would also be a great opportunity to sign children up and arrange for library cards.
  • Provide a free or low-cost summer reading program at the school.
  • Provide part-time summer access to the school library.

Providing Suggestions For Promoting Family Literacy

The following is a list of specific suggestions that might prove useful to parents. Share this information with parents/caregivers in a variety of ways: a workshop format during the last weeks of school, parent newsletters, a printed handout to go home with report cards, for example.

  • Provide a quiet place in your home with reading and writing supplies (paper, felt pens, crayons, scissors, glue, etc.).
  • Buy used books at second-hand stores and garage sales.
  • Reading material comes in many different forms: books, magazines, letters, Internet sites, newspapers, etc. Try them all!
  • Visit the public library every week.
  • Be a reading model. Children learn by example. Let them see you reading in your spare time.
  • Read aloud to your children—20 minutes a day adds up over the course of the summer.
  • Read in the car. Road signs, billboards and licence plates are all sources of reading material while you are in transit. Why not teach your children to read a road map?
  • Daily household routines allow for many reading opportunities—recipes, phone books, the TV guide are all excellent sources of informational text.
  • Try a family board game night. Encourage your children to read the instructions and follow the directions.
  • When you are watching TV reduce the volume and turn on the closed captioning feature. Encourage your children to read the words on the screen.
  • Listen to your child read to you. Ask questions (e.g., What do you think will happen next? What is the problem in the story?).
  • Sing with your children. Singing helps them to develop an early awareness of rhyme, rhythm and words.
  • Ask for your children’s help with household chores: printing grocery lists, marking events on the calendar, writing postcards and letters to family members and friends, etc.
  • Challenge your children with word games such as word searches, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, Upwords, etc.
  • On family trips to museums, science centres, parks and galleries make sure that you read the information on the displays.
  • Have fun!


Brenda Boreham
Brenda is the Literacy Resource Teacher at her school. This part-time position allows her to plan fun literacy events when she isn’t busy in her own classroom.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s May 2010 issue.

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