Help Your Child with the Summer Slide

What Is The Summer Slide?

The term “summer slide” by itself might seem like a positive phrase, perhaps warm and joyful even. It may conjure up images in your mind of children sprinting around a playground, screaming gleefully as they glide down vibrant, colorful slides, their smiles further brightening the golden summer day. However, the true meaning of this term is far less pleasant. The summer slide refers to the cumulative loss of learning that children amass during summer break when they are away from the support of their teachers and schools.

Research indicates that this summer slide can prove to be severely detrimental to children, particularly to children of low-income families.1 Throughout the school year, children have access to an abundance of resources including the support of teachers and access to books, libraries, and museums. However, when summer break begins, children lose many of the resources they had access to while school was in session.2 Since children are no longer actively engaging in learning or given access to the same abundance of resources they had during the school year, they lose a significant portion of the knowledge that they had acquired throughout the year, which is the summer slide.

While the summer slide impacts every child, the effect is more severe for children of low-income families. Students of higher-income backgrounds are not as significantly impacted by the summer slide in part due to the access their family has to financial and educational experiences that encourage learning.3 These experiences can supplement the losses caused by the summer slide and help to keep the resource faucet flowing during the summer. However, not every student has the privilege of these experiences. According to one longitudinal study that followed an entire class of kindergarten children throughout the summer, two-thirds of children from “non-poor” families make visits to local museums, historical sites, or art galleries during the summer and only one-third of children from “poor” families are able to do the same.4

These discrepancies in the access to educational resources during the summer lead to differential impacts of the summer slide based on socioeconomic factors. According to data collected by the READS Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, low-income children in second to ninth grade can lose up to two months or more of reading skills over the summer because of these discrepancies. Additionally, if the summer slide is allowed to accumulate year after year, children can end up being up to two years behind their classmates by the end of sixth grade.5 Therefore, it is critical to prevent the summer slide and ensure that children remain on the path to success.

How can I avoid it?

While the summer slide may seem daunting, it is preventable. Below are are some tips for keeping your children engaged over the summer. 


  • Read to your children every day for at least 30 minutes.
  • Encourage kids to choose books that interest them. It will make them more inclined to enjoy reading! Click here for a list of recommended books for kids!
  • Give incentives to read. Take your child to the park or out for ice cream after they read.
  • Make reading a family ordeal. Either have all family members read their own books at the same time each day, or have everyone read aloud the same book. 
  • Make your books connect to your children’s life. If you go on a family outing to a zoo, read a book about animals or the zoo with your kids beforehand. This can help children create meaningful connections to books.6 


  • Visit your local library! Getting a library card is a free and useful resource for children. Click here to find a library near you!
  • Go to a Free Fun Friday event! These events, hosted by the Highland Street Foundation, offer no-cost admissions to museums, parks, and cultural venues all across Massachusetts every Friday! Check out their schedule here to find events for you to explore!
  • Find a Brain Building activity near you! Click here to find all kinds of educational activities for you and your children nearby!

Go Online!

Written by Julia Murrow (Duke ’22)

1. “Summer By the Book.” Harvard Graduate School of Education. Accessed June 24, 2019.

2. Quinn, David M., David M. Quinn, Morgan Polikoff, and Morgan Polikoff. “Summer Learning Loss: What Is It, and What Can We Do about It?” Brookings. September 14, 2017. Accessed June 24, 2019.

3. Ibid. 

4. “How to Prevent a Summer Slide.” Alliance For Excellent Education. Accessed June 24, 2019.

5. “Summer By the Book.” Harvard Graduate School of Education. Accessed June 24, 2019.

6. “Why Summer Reading Pays Off Year-Round.” Blog. October 25, 2011. Accessed June 24, 2019.