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Let's Tackle the Summer Slide: Part 2! | LiteracyConnections

Rachel Roseberry

Rachel Roseberry is the Literacy Manager at ExpandED Schools. 

NPR just published "Summer Reading for Your Woke Kid," a list of books that frame big issues through a lens that kids can understand. (Image: NPR)

The summer slide is well documented. Our own Katie Browhan, Senior Director of Research, summarized this research in a post last August highlighting a study showing that students in low-income neighborhoods can lose two months of reading achievement over the course of a single summer. Luckily, we also know a wide range of strategies for keeping kids engaged in joyful literacy learning during the months off of school. Our LiteracyConnections blog series will share several of these strategies this summer.

In our first post on summer literacy learning, we shared how programs and families can pair engaging texts with summer activities, themes and clubs to generate excitement and build knowledge. Today’s post will focus on independent reading. Research by James Kim of the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that reading just 4-5 books over the summer shows promise for reducing the summer slide. Which begs the question, how can we get kids excited about reading independently and build time for it in summer routines? Below are a few of our suggestions along with recommendations for fun summer reads for kids of all ages!

  • Let kids choose. It seems simple, but if kids are interested in the topic, they are much more likely to want to keep reading. For kids who have trouble picking out a book, offer engaging choices (see book recommendations below) and think outside the box – magazines and graphic novels definitely count. 

  • Make high-quality and diverse books and magazines available. Build a library of engaging books in your program or take kids on a visit to the local branch of the public library. 

  • Create DEAR time. That’s “Drop Everything And Read.” Build in a designated and consistent amount of time each day/week for independent reading and make sure the space is comfortable. If independent reading feels challenging to your kids, start small, like five minutes, and build up from there!

  • Talk to your kids about reading. Ask your kids why they chose their books, how they like it so far and what is happening. 

  • Participate in summer reading programs. All three library systems in New York City have summer reading programs with fun (free!) events, reading logs and more that will help build enthusiasm for independent reading.


Now for the books! There’s not one definition of a good summer read, but captivating characters or interesting information can keep kids reading all summer long, especially if it’s a part of a series.

♦ For early elementary readers, we love the Lola Levine and Dyamonde Daniel series. Both showcase spunky main characters working their way through relatable situations. For kids more interested in non-fiction, steer them towards the Fly Guy Presents series or National Geographic Kids’ super popular series: Weird But True

♦ For upper elementary readersStef Soto, Taco Queen and Amina’s Voice are fantastic recent releases with compelling main characters. Secret Coders is a graphic novel series featuring mysteries that can only be solved through coding, and on the non-fiction side, the Kid Legends series tells the childhood stories of presidents, famous athletes and others. 

♦ For middle-schoolersThe Way Things Work Now is a fascinating guide to how objects and buildings are constructed – great for budding engineers! Ghost tells the story of a boy who joins his middle school track team with life-changing consequences, and Lumberjanes is a graphic novel series about a group of girls at camp. 


Of course this doesn’t even begin to cover all of the amazing books available for kids. Check out the Reading Rockets Summer Reading List, the Horn Book Summer Reading List, the Diverse Summer Reading List from Lee & Low Publishers and the Summer Reading List from the New York Public Library for more suggestions!