How to Maintain This Year’s Gains for the Next School Year

By WARD LAKE, 3rd Grade Teacher

Why is it important to keep your kids reading and continue learning over the summer? Teachers will tell you how important it is to maintain the achievements gained over the school year by continuing learning and reading over the summer. In a recent study by Harris Cooper, a psychology professor at Duke University, he found children on average lost a month of grade level achievement score over the summer after giving standardized tests before and after summer break.

To avoid “summer regression,” it’s important for parents to keep kids academically active. Most experts recommend reading at least 30 minutes a day for Kindergarten–3rd and 60 minutes for 4th–12th. To make the time recommendations fun and effective, your child should be reading a “just right” book. To do this have your child read a page from the book. If they make more than five mistakes on the page, the book is too difficult for them. On the other hand, no mistakes is below their reading level. However, all reading is good, but the “just right” book will be the challenge they need without causing frustration.

Here are some tips to help you and your child achieve their reading goals:

• Read aloud with your children every day; set a consistent time to create a routine.

• Read the same book your child is reading and discuss it.

• For struggling readers, read the same book multiple times.

• Go to the library regularly; research book clubs.

• Subscribe to popular children’s magazines in the child’s name (Sports Illustrated for Kids, Highlights for Children, National Geographic World, etc.).

• Have children read billboards and signs.

• Talk with your child’s teacher and find out what your child should be reading; ask next year’s teacher for ideas on topics.

• Find out what your child likes to read – let their interests lead the choice.

• Set a good example – let them see and hear you read.

• If a child likes a movie, have them read the book.

• Find a series or author that they like.

• Have them keep a list of words they don’t know in a journal or on a bookmark to build vocabulary.

• Create a bingo chart with different genres (mysteries, poetry, adventure, science fiction/fantasy, non-fiction, etc.); offer appropriate rewards.

It’s more important to focus on the amount of time read, not the number of pages. Keep in mind reading speeds are different – pleasure might be fast and non-fiction may be slower. With the Common Core requirements, there is a push for increased non-fiction reading. These types of books are becoming readily available and more enjoyable for children. For example, biographies on sports heroes and important people from history, science topics, machinery, etc.

To make sure your child understands what they are reading, ask questions and have them tell you about the book. If they are struggling with comprehension, try reading with them. You can also read to them and have them tell you about the story. Many children’s books are available to download and read on iPads or computers. This gives children the opportunity to follow along as they’re being read to. Check out for free downloads of featured books to share throughout the summer.

An inexpensive and fun way to increase your library at home is to look at garage sales and research book exchanges. Kids love having their own books.

Students will also benefit by keeping up on their writing skills over the summer. They can do this by:

• Becoming a pen pal, either by actually writing or emailing, with friends, cousins, grandparents, other family members. (See our article on the benefits of kids connecting with an older adult.)

• Keep a summer scrapbook of pictures, postcards, ticket stubs, etc. and have them write about the experience with captions.

• Start a summer journal. Write every day about things that have happened.

• Write a never-ending story. Start a story and write every day. Others can add to the story to give it a twist. It helps keep the child engaged.

There are many math websites that allow students of all ages to practice their basic math skills. Check out or If students are having specific problems, they can get help at It re-teaches the concept that the student is struggling with and is available for all levels. This could be especially effective during the school year for help with homework.

Everybody needs a break and time to relax, but in order to pick up where they left off instead of struggling to catch up next fall, summer learning is a must.

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