Summer break is traditionally a period for students to unwind from the structured school environment. Yet, this recess can also usher in the “summer slide,” a period where students, especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, tend to lose crucial academic skills. This decay is notably severe in fundamental areas such as mathematics and reading.

As a Principal Supervisor, I was privileged to support elementary, middle, and high school Principals. While I clearly understood the impact of the “summer slide” on secondary students, the impact on elementary students was a new experience for me. However, I was blessed to have great leaders who educated me on the importance of having a multitiered approach to minimize the impact of the summer slide.

As a result of their efforts, we were able to leverage resources to ensure our students had multiple opportunities and resources to engage with over the summer months. In addition to summer programs, they provided resources for parents to use at home to assist their students. Therefore, when students returned at the start of a new year, students required less remediation.

The erosion of academic achievements over the summer negatively impacts student progress and classroom dynamics at the beginning of the new school year. Teachers frequently spend early weeks reteaching material forgotten over the summer, which can delay new academic coverage. Continual summer learning loss can lead to a significant gap, particularly as students advance in grade levels. Research indicates that a struggling reader might fall behind by as much as two years in reading skills by middle school due to cumulative summer learning deficits.

One of the most potent defenses against the summer slide is the implementation of summer reading programs. These programs are not just remedial measures but proactive strategies to foster a love for reading and continuous learning through the summer months.

Let’s discuss some of the key features of successful summer reading programs.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Summer reading programs must be accessible to all students. This means libraries, schools, and community centers must collaborate to ensure no child is left without resources. Offering books that reflect diverse experiences and interests can also help draw in more young readers.

Engagement and Fun

Summer reading should be fun! Programs incorporating games, reading challenges, and rewards can motivate children to keep reading. Events like author visits, story hours, and group discussions can also enhance engagement.

Parental and Community Involvement

Encouraging parents to participate in their children’s reading journey is crucial. Programs can offer workshops or resources to help parents understand how to engage their children in reading at home. Community involvement can extend to local businesses and organizations sponsoring events or donating resources, making the program a widespread community effort.

Flexibility and Variety

Offering a variety of formats and genres—including ebooks, audiobooks, graphic novels, and print books—can cater to different reading preferences and needs, making reading accessible to everyone, everywhere.

“Public libraries all run wonderful summer reading programs that keep kids grabbing new books. The sad truth is, if kids stop reading in the summer, they fall behind in school.”

-Kate Messner

Summer reading programs stand out as a critical tool in mitigating the detrimental effects of the summer slide. They provide an engaging and educational way to keep children’s literacy skills sharp and ensure they return to school ready to learn.

Creating inclusive, fun, and community-supported reading opportunities can significantly diminish the academic disparities caused by the summer slide and build a foundation for lifelong learning.


“When students are led well, they learn well.”

The views shared in the Educational Leadership Moment are solely mine and do not reflect the positions of my employer or any entity within the local, state, or federal government sectors.

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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.