July 15, 2019

Getting the Most out of Your Student's Summer Learning and the Lasting Gains

By Franque Bains |

Summer programs across the Wasatch front and a neighbor in the Wasatch Back (Park City) are unifying forces to help reduce summer slide. We’re not saying that we’re at parks and pools blocking off the best ride of all time. No! Especially not in the summer! We're talking about the infamous summer slide that makes the achievement gaps of our students wider year after year.  Research finds that minority and low-income students show learning losses over the summer while “[non-minority] and middle-class children often exhibit gains over this time period” (2).  

In order to bridge that gap and support our students, programs in the Wasatch are working together for the sixth year in a row to help parents and students slide into success for the upcoming school year. They’ve been working under the Summer Literacy Initiative with the United Way of Salt Lake and over the years we’re finding that students that receive support in the summer start school more prepared than students that stay home and the benefits persist throughout the school year (1).  

Whether your student is in a summer learning program or not this summer, here are some tips to help your student slide into the school year with greater confidence in reading. That’s the kind of slide that we want to see!

Tip #1 - Check your program IMG 0521
Do they have an academic block taught by teachers?

Programs with academic learning blocks taught by teachers are proven to show higher gains (3). Programs without certified teachers don’t have the same results and often students who attend these programs don’t fare any better than students who didn’t go to a program at all. Teachers in the Summer Literacy Initiative do lots of planning to ensure their lessons are engaging and well planned. This year, I had the pleasure of catching students at a program at Moss Elementary engaging in skits. The teachers are very concerned with ensuring their programming is worthwhile. The stakes are higher when school is optional and they want their students to come.  

Tip #2 - Regular attendance  IMG 0523

High attendance is key. It is summer and it may be harder to pull the kids away from their favorite games and into a teacher’s seat, but it makes all the difference.  Students that attend regularly receive the summer learning gains. When they don’t attend regularly they can still experience learning loss and they also experience the frustration that comes from having to catch up when their peers have moved on.  A teacher at a program at Roosevelt Elementary shares that “I want parents to know that we’re planning good things for your kids and when kids miss too many days, they get behind. We’re asking parents to let us know ahead of time so that we can intervene and send work home.” You definitely want your child to attend as frequently as possible to get the most out of the program. As travel may take your student away from program check in with your teachers to see what they can do.  

Tip #3 - Find literacy initiatives in your city

If your child isn’t enrolled in a summer program this year, they can still gain from participating in the literacy initiatives across the Salt Lake Valley. Our city and county libraries have great reading programs that provide prizes and incentives to kids all summer long.  

Salt Lake City Library

Salt Lake County Library

The Utah State Fair
has a great “Read & Win” competition.

For fun and educational activities Salt Lake County - Check out the Zap Passport that provides discounts to families over the summer

You can check out Salt Lake Tribune’s full list of fun reading activities for families yourself! 

Tip #4 - If our programs don’t reach your area, you can work at home

Six years in, the Summer Literacy Initiative has seen that without a doubt, summer interventions make great gains. But everyone may not have access. A simple and fun intervention that parents can do at home is dyad reading. It is paired reading where both read out loud, hence the name “dyad” which means two. Just fifteen minutes of dyad reading a day is being shown to improve students' reading proficiency by two or three grade levels when done for a full school year. This easy, low-cost intervention can be done at home all summer and year long. For more information on how to start dyad reading with your child, check out this resource folder.

Reading is the foundation of our student’s learning and we hope our parents can feel equipped to do the best that they can for their students. If you have any questions on how to better support your students, feel free to reach out to me at .  

Happy Summer Learning!

Franque Bains is the Director of the Elementary Reading Network at United Way of Salt Lake.

1. Augustine, C. H. et al. (2016) Learning from Summer. Available at https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1557.html, accessed July 12, 2019.
2. McEachin, A. & Atteberry, A. The Impact of Summer Learning Loss on Measures of School Performance, p. 46.
3. Schwartz, H. L. et al. (2018) Getting to Work on Summer Learning. Available at https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR366-1.html, accessed July 12, 2019.