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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Mom and daughter reading on couch

Turning the Summer Slide in to a Ladder Up

After our kids work hard all year in school they’re thrilled for summer vacation! I remember well how great those seemingly endless days felt – sleeping in, playing outdoors, and reading books in a sunny spot.

Now that I’m the parent, I worry my kids lose ground academically during the summer. As a doctor, I know kids can also slip into unhealthy habits over those months. Teachers send kids home in June with a certain level of knowledge only to find in the fall they’ve forgotten some of what they learned. Summertime with its long, lazy days of freedom is a hallmark of childhood but can be a risk to children’s education and fitness without some planned activities.

There are far-reaching benefits to helping your kids stay active and healthy during the free-form days of summer. These days can be a time of family connection and exploration at home as well as through educational camps and programs in many communities.

Academically, summer can be a time to develop new skills. And parents can help prevent the slide in knowledge that teachers experience from students in the fall.

Making regular reading part of those summer days at home can help kids avoid losing academic ground. Providing your kids with books (preferably of their choosing), as well as the time and sunny space to read, can be one of your goals each summer.

Here are some ideas to get started:

Make sure your child has their very own library card. Many libraries have summer reading programs and competitions to motivate young readers.

Let your kids choose their books. Comic books? Age-appropriate graphic novels? Say yes!

Ask their teachers for ideas that fit well with your child’s current reading level. Check out the America Library Association summer reading lists for your child’s age level.

Let your kids see you reading. In this digital era, it can be hard for parents to put the phone down and read something paper-based. Summer can motivate us to take time to relax with a good book too – let your excuse be acting as a role model for the kids!

Consider hosting a beginning-of-summer book swap party.

Start a parent-child book group. I’ve been in one with my daughter and her friends since she was in elementary school and have enjoyed reading their books as a way to bond and understand their world.

Read a book as a family. One year we read The Calder Game together. It provided plenty of opportunities for conversation, and we even tried making the mobiles featured in the story!

Next fall, at the start of school, maybe our teachers will smile to see that our kids have climbed up a ladder to better reading over the summer! As they read, our kids will grow through the stories they soaked up – those of adventure and laughter, mystery and fantasy.

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.”  George R. R. Martin

Find more resources for parents:

My Doctor Online
Reach Out & Read
Association for Library Services to Children

This article was previously published in Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools blog.

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