Public Libraries help students prevent Summer Slide!

Summer is here! For many elementary and secondary students across the state, it signifies ball games, pools, family vacations, and that longed-for break from school work. But, did you know that a complete separation from activities such as reading and writing could have negative effects on a child’s education?

Summer setback, also known as “summer slide” or “summer learning loss,” occurs when children lose academic skills during the summertime, when they are most often out of practice.

Summer Slide Setback Happens So Fast!

Research Findings on Summer Slide:

  • Children in low-income households fall behind an average of 2 months in reading during the summer. And, summer slide is cumulative, with these learning losses building up each summer.
  • Summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of the 9th grade achievement gap in reading between students from low-income households and their higher-income peers.
  • Students from low-income households with access to books over the summer see significantly more gains in reading scores from spring to fall than students from high-income households with access to books and those from low-income households without access to books.
  • Differences in children’s summer learning experiences during their elementary school years can ultimately impact whether they earn a high school diploma and continue to college.

The effects of summer setback cumulate from year to year, leading to lower proficiency levels in the long run, as seen by over 100 years’ worth of studies focused on this topic. Johns Hopkins School of Education notes research stating that “two-thirds of the ninth grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years.” Students with unequal or nonexistent access to educational opportunities over the summer are less likely to graduate high school on time or even enter college.

How can we combat summer setback and help our children reach their highest achievements?

  • Take advantage of opportunities in the community: 95% of libraries offer summer reading programs for students—check them out! Stay in-the-know with what’s going on at local art museums, science centers, school programs, and more. Not only do these programs invite children to try new things, but they participate in crafts and activities and can be socially interactive with their peers.
  • Make fun books accessible: Whether you have them at home, on your e-reader, in your purse, or at the library, make books easily accessible. Let children select the topics they want to read about. Studies show that children are more likely to read—and keep reading—if they are excited about the content. Studies also show that even reading six books over the summer helps to reduce summer reading loss.
  • To-Go Packs: Summers are often busy times for everyone. Purchase or make travel packs to include math problems, writing prompts, trivia questions, and other activities that sneak in educational opportunities in enjoyable ways.
  • Converse: Converse with your child. Open dialogue exposes your child to new ideas and vocabulary words. Go for a walk and talk about the trees, using descriptive adjectives. Talk about the food you’re eating to describe the flavors, cultures, or the science behind how they are made.
  • Play games: Games are a fantastic way to fit in educational experiences. Playing board games can encourage creativity, reading and math skills, communication, teamwork, and sportsmanship.


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About Pennsylvania Libraries and PA Forward

Libraries across Pennsylvania are working together with the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) to move PA Forward and ensure that libraries take their rightful place as leaders of a vision that requires a unique combination of new technology, community access, and commitment to learning. Libraries are key to powering progress and elevating the quality of life in Pennsylvania by fueling the types of knowledge essential to success: Basic Literacy, Information Literacy, Civic and Social Literacy, Health Literacy, and Financial Literacy. At PaLA we envision a Pennsylvania where citizens know how to use online resources and current technology to improve their education, to enhance their job skills, and to fully participate in a digital society. Find out more at or


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