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Summer 2020: Encouraging reading during a pandemic and how we can help your kids avoid the summer slide.

We know kids who unplug from learning during the summer months have a harder time transitioning back to the educational level they had achieved at the end of the previous school year once school begins again. And this summer? It doesn’t look anything like we thought summer would look like when we were dreaming about it last winter, does it?

Summer 2020 is at least twice as long as a normal summer (or at least it seems to be) since we’ve all spent months previous to it figuring out distance learning, ending school before the normal term would have ended and staying quarantined in our homes. It’s safe to say educators and parents alike are nervous about how students will fair when school begins again in the fall. Will the summer slide of 2020 be even worse than a normal summer?

The answer is simple: It doesn’t have to be.

One of the greatest predictors of a summer slide for kids is an absence of reading while away from school. Simply adding daily reading to your schedule will dramatically help keep kids reading on their level and prepared for the next school year.

As lovers of books and reading, we think this simple solution sounds great. In fact, all of the libraries in the Eastern Oklahoma Library System have come up with fun, encouraging ways to help kids engage in reading this summer. And because Summer 2020 isn’t like any other we’ve been through, all our summer reading engagements can be grab-and-go and enjoyed at home to help ensure socially distancing whenever possible.

Beanstalk, a digital platform, helps more than 800 libraries — including EOLS — organize and facilitate more than 2,000 Summer Reading programs throughout the world. We are excited about this partnership to help grow our Summer Reading Program as we are joining a network of more than 1.4 million readers worldwide who use Beanstalk to log their summer reading. In 2018 alone, those readers read nearly 7 million books and logged more than 476 million minutes reading. (If you want to do the math: That’s 906 years of continuous reading time in one summer!) We know Summer Reading Programs can help prevent the summer slide. Daily logging of reading time keeps kids and adults accountable to the goal they’ve set for themselves. And, daily reading keeps skills sharp for when these students return to schoolwork in the fall. We want every EOLS patron to participate in our Summer Reading Program. Encouraging strong reading habits can go beyond counting up the minutes or pages read each day or each week. There are a lot of other fun ways to encourage the joy of reading while keeping those reading comprehension skills sharp:

• Reading out loud. Pick a favorite chapter book from your childhood and read it to your children.

• Make lists! Have your child make the grocery list for the store or ideas for the weekend.

• Work puzzles or play board games.

• Cook with your kids. Encourage them to guide you through the recipe as you go.

• Audio books count! Play audio books in the car or during down time instead of TV. Your children are still exposed to the vocabulary, comprehension and imagination that is created when they listen to books.

• Let your child choose what they want to read. Especially during the summer, let them read anything they want. As long as they are reading, that’s what matters!

• Read a play and act out the story. Assign parts. Create costumes.

• Make it a game. Create a sight word board game or hop scotch board for young readers.

• Book clubs for all ages! Form a book club with friends. Set Zoom calls for discussion.

• Draw pictures from the stories and scenes of the book.

• Encourage kids to write a sequel to their favorite book. What happens next?

• Hear their opinions: Have your kids tell you what they loved and what they hated about the books they are reading.

• Read with them! Kids learn by example. So, take a break, slow down and read a good book while they do the same this summer.

The joy of reading is something that is nurtured and encouraged in children. Take this unique time this summer when we’re all a little less busy to nurture your child’s love of reading. Next year’s academic success will thank you. And, if you have fun with anything from the above list, take a picture and share with us on social media. We’d love to see your adventures in reading!

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