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EDITORIAL: Keep kids reading to avoid summer slide

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School has been out for a few weeks now, and most kids are enjoying an easier, more carefree schedule.

Unfortunately, the majority of students have already lost some of the academic gains made during the school year. A good number have even dropped in reading level.

This decline, coined ‘summer slide’ by educators, refers to learning loss that occurs over summer break. Studies estimate the average student may lose up to a full month’s worth of instruction, dropping in reading aptitude by up to one grade level.

Research has also shown that kids who have little or no access to books during the summer months fall even further behind their peers who keep reading, starting out the new school year at an even greater disadvantage.

Summer slide is preventable. No, most kids don’t need to be enrolled in summer school, or spend every hot July day at a desk reading assigned tasks while their friends play outside. Of course it’s important for kids to have down time, to enjoy summer activities, to play and just be a kid.

But please, parents and caregivers, keep their young minds active, too. Keep them reading. Don’t let them fall behind. With each passing summer, it only gets harder for them to catch up.

This achievement gap is serious stuff. Teachers spend, on average, a couple of weeks to a month reviewing material at the start of the school year. Test scores in fall are often lower than those in spring. It’s the educational equivalent of three steps forward and one step back.

One of the best ways to keep kids involved and reading is to take advantage of summer reading programs offered by public libraries. Almost all libraries have these and include special incentives to keep books and reading a part of everyday life. The Perry County Public Library offers summer programs for children birth to 12th grade and also has a large selection of materials that students with Internet access can take advantage of online at www.tcpclibrary.org. These materials can also be accessed from the computer stations at the Tell City and Cannelton branches.

Reluctant readers may enjoy graphic novels, comic books, riddle and joke books. These count. Match their interests with materials. Let them choose, but keep encouraging them to read, to learn. Again, the library’s website has many graphic novels that can be read online.

Learning and reading outside of the classroom has to be a priority and it’s up to parents and caregivers to make sure this happens. Teachers can’t and shouldn’t do it alone.

Don’t let the kids spend hours on the couch, watching television or glued to a video screen, only to return to the classroom in August with mushy gray matter.

In whatever format, and whichever subject interests them, keep them reading and intellectually engaged.  It’s crucial to their success as individuals and our success as a community.

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