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Schools and school principals have an important role in keeping students reading over the summer holidays to help prevent the 'summer slide'. The 'summer slide' or 'summer slump' is the decline in reading achievement some children experience after being away from school over the long summer holiday.
How schools can support summer reading
The school holidays are a time when some children and teens have little or no opportunity to read and maintain their literacy skills and reading habits.
Schools need to plan interventions to encourage and support students to read during the holidays. Without them, each school year will begin with weeks or months spent helping students catch up to reading levels achieved the previous year.
Your school can scaffold students into summer reading and support their parents and family/whānau to be reading role models. The emphasis needs to be on 'reading for pleasure' and finding books that appeal, with no 'study' requirements attached.
To prevent summer reading loss, your school can:
- share information about the summer slide with staff and families/whānau
- give advice and support to parents and families/whānau
- ensure students have access to plenty of reading resources
- make connections with public libraries
- encourage all staff to read and know children’s and young adult literature, so they can recommend books to students of all ages and become great reading role models
- develop a strategic, evidence-based, whole-school approach.
The role of the principal and school leaders
To be successful, school summer reading initiatives need to have the commitment, vision and endorsement of principals and school leaders.
Leadership is needed to:
- establish a summer reading team
- endorse summer reading initiatives and promote a school-wide approach
- demonstrate and inspire reading by being a reading role model yourself.
Establish a summer reading team
Setting up and empowering a reading team shares the responsibility for planning and implementing summer reading initiatives. It also ensures the initiative continues if staff leave the school.
This team may include:
- teachers from different year levels
- literacy leaders
- the school librarian
- students and parents.
Endorse and promote summer reading initiatives
As a school leader or principal, it's crucial that you endorse summer reading initiatives to get your whole school on board.
To help ensure a summer reading initiative is successful, you could:
- provide time and support for summer reading initiatives
- endorse policies and approaches that enable summer reading, such as relaxing your library's practices around lending and opening hours
- know your school community profile and identify groups summer reading initiatives might target, including priority learners such as Māori, Pasifika, ESOL or students with special education needs
- ensure initiatives are reviewed so your school can continue and sustain summer reading initiatives from year to year
- include summer reading goals in school planning and align them with literacy goals.
School leaders as reading role models
In his inspiring NerdyBookClub blog post, principal Matt Renwick talks about how he leads his school’s reading culture. Each year starts with staff sharing what they read over the holidays.
You can inspire and support your students and staff to read for pleasure by reading yourself. This will enable you to:
- discuss and recommend books, inspiring students to become readers
- share expectations about staff being readers themselves, reading role models for students, and being knowledgeable about children’s literature.