Lots of people (mostly teachers) talk about something called the “summer slide”. But what is it? Most kids, if you ask, will tell you it is a fun, water-related ride down a slippery sheet of vinyl in the back yard!

The “summer slide”, though, is the loss of learning students experience during the long summer break.

Sometimes students simply forget what they’ve learned. Sometimes the loss of learning occurs because students don’t practice essential skills. Reading and math skills, in particular, require regular practice to stay sharp.

When kids aren’t reading or using math in July and August, lots of hard work that students, teachers and families put in during the school year is wasted.

It’s a bigger problem than you might think.

Summer slide has been studied in the United States since 1906. More than 100 years of research demonstrates that nearly all students suffer learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Most students will regress about two full months but some of these students will lose as much as three months of prior learning over summer break. (Cooper, 1996). In addition, much of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning activities. (Alexander et al, 2007).

Most alarming is that summer slide is cumulative. In other words, for kids getting little or no educational stimulation in the summer, the months of learning lost “add up” each summer, pushing students farther and farther behind peers that do keep learning even though school is not in session. (Cooper et al, 2000).

But summer slide can be stopped with a little planning and the use of some easy-to-access resources. And there are lots of ways to make summer learning fun.

See below for just a few  of the many strategies adults can use to help students avoid sliding back several months over the summer. We don’t want YOU to be overwhelmed, so open next week’s blog to see a few more!

3 Strategies to Stop the Summer Slide (and 3 more next week) –

  • Head to your local librarian. Nearly ever library has a summer reading program for every age child. Simply go to the information desk and tell the librarian you want to help your child avoid the “summer slide.” You’ll get lots of help and your child will get lots of choices including book recommendations, live readings, reading groups, audio books, games and prizes.


  • Read Something Every Day. This is probably the most commonly offered suggestion but is also the most important advice — try to plan for reading every day through one of the suggestions above or ideas you create and discover on you own. Getting your students to read — and to listen to others reading — prevents the loss of language skills so critical to success in every academic area. You might consider picking a chapter book or series to build some great family rituals too!


  • Use the Web. Math can be challenging to engage students in over the summer, but there are websites that are very helpful. For younger children, try Touch Math (www.touchmath.com). They have a number of PDF activity guides that are engaging and fun while giving kids the practice they need. For older students, Education.com has a great article with lots of ideas for helping tweens and teens stay current in math.  Check it out at www.education.com/magazine/article/teen-summer-math-slide/. If you don’t have a computer, you and your student can use one free at the library. Or head to the local bookstore (or sometimes even the Dollar Store) and pick up a few math workbooks! Just a little practice every day can go a very long way towards keeping those math wheels turning!

Set the intention of getting to the library this week, and logging into the world-wide-web to find some engaging math activities!

Take a look next week for a few more! Be Wise!



Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66, 227-268.

Alexander, K.L., Entlisle, D.R. and Olson, L.S., (2007). Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap. American Sociological Review, vol. 72 no. 2 167-180.

Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., & Muhlenbruck, L. (2000). Making the most of summer school. A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 65 (1, Serial No. 260).

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