PEI

How to prevent 'summer slide' in your kids' literacy

School will soon be out, and for many families that means regular routines go out the window. Literacy experts say there's some research that shows literacy skills can be lost over the summer — what's referred to as summer slide.

Island literacy experts offer advice on how to help your kids with their literacy skills through the summer

Jinny Greaves and her two kids reading together. Greaves says the P.E.I. literacy Alliance is promoting the Summer Reading Challenge. (P.E.I. Literacy Alliance)

School will soon be out, and for many families that means regular routines go out the window.

Literacy experts say there's some research that shows literacy skills can be lost over the summer — what's referred to as summer slide.

Kids are playing outside more, going to the beach and sometimes spending more time in front of screens.

The good news is that with a bit of encouragement, kids can actually build literacy in the summer.

I always just say to myself, what's one thing that we can do today that's literacy-based.— Jennifer Brandt, literacy coach

"If you're on a road trip, or you're in a doctor's office or you're even at the beach. You know if you have a book there you're much more likely to actually read them," said Jinny Greaves, from the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance.

"That would be the number one thing, is just make sure you have some books on you."

Strategic reading

Some P.E.I. schools start preparing families before school is even out.

Jennifer Brandt, a literacy coach from the Public Schools Branch, was recently part of an evening event at Athena Consolidated in Summerside.

It was organized to give parents advice on helping kids build on what they've been learning during the school year — while still having fun.

A recent event was held at Athena Consolidated in Summerside to give parents advice on helping kids build on what they've been learning during the school year. (Jennifer Brandt)

Brandt — a mom of three — says she told the 15 or so people at the gathering it's important to keep children's reading and writing muscles working.

"I have to strategically place moments in our day where I know at least once a day we're going to read something or write something or enjoy literacy of some form because it's just the consistency over time," she said.  

Brandt said they spend a lot of time at the library, play word games like Boggle and Bananagrams and tell stories in the car.

It's okay for kids to read materials that we may not think of as traditional capital R reading material.— Roseanne Gauthier, youth service librarian

"I always just say to myself, what's one thing that we can do today that's literacy-based," she said. 

"It might just be a bedtime story, it might be that today is a rainy day so we're going to play some indoor board games, or today is a day we're going to sit and read at the beach, or at the pool, or in a hammock or under a tree."

Brandt said when it comes to reluctant readers, try to get them to start with one book about something they're interested in.

Don't restrict reading

Roseanne Gauthier, youth services librarian with P.E.I.'s Public Library Service, said after a year of being told what to read at school — kids should be allowed to make those choices.

And she has some advice when it comes to reluctant readers.

'That would be the number one thing, is just make sure you have some books on you,' says Jinny Greaves, with the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance. (Jennifer Brandt)

"It's okay for kids to read materials that we may not think of as traditional capital R reading material. So it's okay if kids don't want to come into the library and pick up a book," she said.

"Maybe they want to try reading an e-book, or listen to an audio book. And you can download those from the library."

Gauthier said all 26 libraries across the Island take part in the TD Summer Reading Club, a national, bilingual reading club for kids of all ages.

Library programming

And there's plenty of programming happening at the libraries as well.

Greaves said the alliance is promoting the Summer Reading Challenge from the Literacy for Life Foundation.

Instead of challenging young people to read 100 books, it's challenging them to read in 100 different places.

Annie Jolicouer is the leader for French programs for grades 4 to 8 with the French Language School Board.

She said the idea of maintaining literacy skills is important for French students as well — and suggests festivals as a great place to practice speaking French.

"In the summertime it's important for parents to find occasions where the kids can still speak French with some friends, maybe on play dates, there's a lot of activities through the library, summer camps," she said.  

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