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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Fighting the Summer Slide with a Great Story

reading aloud summer slide

What was your favorite book as a child?

Do you remember a teacher or adult reading to you? If you were blessed to experience that, what do you remember best about it? I remember my second grade teacher, Mrs. Langdon, reading Charlotte’s Web to us. That’s when I fell in love with Wilbur, reading, and thus, learning.

Most afterschool educators are aware of “summer slide,” the term given to children’s loss of academic skills during the summer months. This happens especially for students in low socioeconomic areas, as shown in a video by Brian Williams.

The battle between meeting both the academic needs and the social needs of children, especially during the summer months, is real. There is one activity, though, that earns an immense return for students – both in learning and in social growth: being read aloud to. Being read aloud to allows children to get lost in a story and experience the joys of reading, sparking the love of reading as well as the art of listening.

Being read aloud to builds a sense of story for children and develops vocabulary.

Reading aloud to demonstrates human interactions and relationships and builds an understanding of the world in general. Being read aloud to builds community within your program. Listening to many genres (types of books or writing) helps open the world of books and reading to students who may never know them otherwise. While this practice is labeled as one of the most effective for growing reading skills in students, children get the most from being read aloud to when books with great appeal, either through language, repetition, or suspense, are chosen. Perhaps start with a story staff members loved as a child, or choose from this fabulous list.

It is a wonder that being read aloud to, with its many proven positive outcomes, is not a more common activity in our summer programs. Perhaps that is because of staff’s level of comfort with reading in general, and reading aloud more specifically. Help staff members be most successful when reading aloud to children by pre-reading the books and practicing fluent, paced, and appropriately inflected reading. Take time to solve challenging words or sentence structure beforehand so readers are more confident.

Be silly – exaggerate some phrases and use voices for different characters.

Practice in front of other staff members, too, for even more fun! Student engagement is key, so create an environment of enjoyment. Make sure students can see pictures and can join in repetitive language pages. Don’t limit your reading aloud to early elementary students, either. All students enjoy being read to, no matter the age. Even better, help older students choose books to read aloud to younger students. Remember to allow them time to practice, too.

Reading aloud need not take a large portion of your day. Have a time when chaos seems to reign? That’s the time to read aloud! First thing in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch, or even during dismissal time are all perfect for gathering students and sharing a story. You’ll find no better activity that builds community, social growth, and academic knowledge in such a short amount of time!

For breakfast I had bacon and eggs for breakfast today.

Author Profile: @alakart

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BOOST Collaborative is a unique, purpose-driven organization committed to supporting those serving youth in the out-of-school time hours by providing quality professional development, opportunities for networking & partnerships, and leadership training. Together, we make a difference.

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