We asked children's book author and former Mission Society staff member, Angela Shanté, to help us kick off the summer and encourage year-round learning. She shares her advice on developing reading routines, pushing back against summer slide, and connecting with the young people in our lives while they are out of school.
Summer is a special time. It marks the end of a school year, and, for many, the beginning of a slower-paced, well-deserved, summer vacation. For caregivers, it’s time to start making summer plans for your children. And as those plans start to unfold, I want you to make sure literacy is front and center.
Developing a consistent literacy routine with children is essential to establishing life-long learning practices – which shouldn’t stop because it's summertime. In fact, continuing this routine over the summer is crucial to preventing learning loss. Studies show that children who stopped engaging in literacy practices over the summer can lose up to 30% of the learning growth made within that school year.
When I was a classroom teacher, I always left this message with parents in June: combat summer slide by making reading, writing, listening, and speaking part of your daily routine at home. Here are just a few of the ways I encourage parents to incorporate literacy into their day-to-day lives with students:
Read TO children: Daily reading helps young learners see (through modeling) how to read, how to use their voice when reading, and how to slow at periods or get excited at exclamation points!
Read WITH children: Daily reading with learners helps you see what they can do on their own. Check for reading flow, ask critical questions, make predictions, and check for understanding.
Let children read INDEPENDENTLY: Make ‘reading time’ a part of your day; let young learners pick their own book or start a book club together.
Read the WORLD: Wherever you go, have learners use a map to get around, or read street signs and store names.
Write DAILY: Daily writing doesn’t have to be laborious. Have children make a list, draft an email, or write out a chore chart. Physical writing supports fine motor skills for young learners and reinforces spelling, writing mechanics, and penmanship for older learners.
LISTEN and SPEAK with children: Build conversation skills, debate hot topics, or simply talk about your day. Young children learn effective ways of communicating with daily practice. Older children can develop larger vocabularies, sharpen reasoning skills, and reinforce important socializing skills. Listening and speaking go both ways: encourage learners to elaborate on their thoughts, support their arguments, and ask challenging questions.
Infusing literacy into a daily routine for the children in your lives is essential to their academic success and doing so can stop summer slide. But remember – you can also make it fun! Explore your neighborhood, city, or state, giving students a chance to build mapping skills, learn about historical events, or send letters to neighbors. You can plan a family vacation or reunion, writing invitations and speaking at a family meeting. Going to local museums presents opportunities for reading comprehension and communication practice. I hope you will find many new ways to encourage the learners in your life, and build long-lasting literacy routines this summer and beyond.
Angela Shanté is an award-winning author of children’s books, including The Noisy Classroom, which was a finalist for the 2020 American Fiction Awards for Children’s Fiction and a silver medalist for the 2020 Wishing Shelf Book Awards for Ages 6-8, and When My Cousins Come to Town, which was a silver medalist for the 2022 Irma Black Award and was on NYPL’s Best Books for Kids 2021. She is the co-founder of Sunday Dinner Publishing, an indie publishing company, and an advocate for DEI in education and the arts. Angela is a former Mission Society Director, who is now a consultant for educational organizations and schools.