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Tips to Continue Summer Learning

Most of us are excited to begin summer activities that involve being outside and going on vacations. Physical outside activity is crucial for a child’s development; however, it is important to identify additional activities that will keep your son or daughter learning.

There are numerous scientific-based studies that demonstrate that children who have access to books and whose parents read to them show gains over the summer. Dr. James Kim, Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, investigated the role of summer reading on children’s reading progress. For the 2,000-plus fourth- and sixth-grade students, Dr. Kim found that those who read the most did better when they returned to school in the fall.

What other factors contribute to improved summer learning? Dr. Kim conducted another study to determine if the gains were solely due to reading more books or to other factors. He found that those who made the greatest gains not only read more, but the reading material matched the student’s reading ability and his/her interests. In addition, adults used an interactive approach and assisted with comprehension (White & Kim, 2008, pg. 124).

How will you or your son or daughter know when a book is at the correct reading level? While teachers use more complex methods to select books that a student can read independently, Dr. Kim suggests that parents use a simpler method -- the “five-finger” rule. In this method, the child is asked to read 100 words from the book. Each time he/she has difficulty reading a word, the child holds up one finger. If the child has five fingers held up at the end of the 100-word passage, the book is too difficult to be read independently.

What is an interactive approach to reading? Using an interactive approach means that an adult interacts with the child by applying comprehension strategies. Dr. Kim used the following five strategies to help students understand what they had read (White & Kim, 2008, pg. 119):

  1. Ask your son or daughter to re-read a passage to gain fluency or to help with understanding.
  2. Ask your child to make a prediction about what might happen next or what the story is about by just looking at the title.
  3. Ask questions related to the story.
  4. Make connections about the story or book to something in the child’s own experiences.
  5. Ask the reader to summarize what was read.

What other activities can parents implement over summer break to help their children continue learning? To continue learning and avoid the summer slide, Borman (2000) stresses the importance of repeated exposure of literacy-rich experiences. Below are a few experiences:

  1. Parents and older siblings should model reading.
  2. Consider subscribing to a favorite magazine (i.e., Sports Illustrated for Kids) now so that it will arrive by summer break.
  3. Enroll your son or daughter in the free Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge at
  4. Get your child his/her own library card and visit the library each week over the summer. This is a great habit to form with your child.
  5. Begin to plan now for summer field trips. There are many local learning resources that provide children’s activities, such as the Frist Center, the Adventure Science Center and the Nashville Zoo.
  6. During the last few weeks of school, set several summer learning goals withyour child. Possible goals may include a) to solve 500 math problems over the summer or b) to read 10 books over the summer. Learning to set goals, also helps to build executive function (EF) skills.
  7. Regularly play board games and activities with the entire family. Not only will this build family bonds, but it will also build EF skills.

Remember, that just as the marathon runner doesn’t take three months off from training because it’s summer, students must also remain in training by continuing to read, solving math problems, participating in literacy-rich experiences, building social relations, and exploring the great outdoors.


  • Borman, G. (2000). The effects of summer school: Questions answered, questions raised. Monographs of the Society of Research in Child Development, 65(1), 119-127.
  • White, T. G. & Kim, J. S. Teacher and parent scaffolding of voluntary summer reading. The Reading Teacher, Vol. 62, No. 2. October 2008.
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