Stopping the Summer Slide in Rhode Island

The author is the First Gentleman of Rhode Island.

With August now upon us, my family, like many others, is squeezing in the summer’s last trips to the beach, barbecues, and bike rides before gearing up for the start of the new school year. But amidst the flurry of summer activity and a change of pace that replaces math class with summer camp and backpacks with beach bags, I’m always encouraged by the consistent place that reading holds in this routine.

My wife Gina and I start each day by reading with our kids – who are 8 and 11 years old – and we see the impact that reading together has on growing their confidence and critical thinking skills. For our kids, reading is not only a way to explore new places and have adventures, but also helps them develop into strong communicators.

At the beginning of June, I had the pleasure of kicking off the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge at five elementary schools in Rhode Island. As a Summer Reading Ambassador, I visited these schools to read with students and deliver book donations from Scholastic to encourage a love of reading outside of the classroom setting. I was impressed to see the thoughtful ways students communicated their interests, and the sophistication with which they evaluated which materials were the best match for themselves and their peers.

Scholastic’s program is designed to combat the “summer slide,” a phenomenon which indicates that students who are not engaged in summer learning can lose up to two months of reading skills each summer. Educators recognize that the summer slide is a real problem, and are working to identify targeted means of addressing this issue for individual kids – just as teachers have been working hard to differentiate in-school learning opportunities for students for decades.

The theme for Rhode Island’s 2015 Summer Reading Program, “Every Hero Has a Story” is particularly attuned to this idea. In highlighting the experiences that make us all different, this message celebrates diversity and reminds us that there are multiple paths toward any individual goal. Similarly, technology has helped to accelerate and deepen the process of personalized learning, driving new opportunities for self-directed and collaborative learning that allow for real gains in student achievement.

Scholastic’s Summer Reading Challenge provides students with interactive content, gamifies the summer reading experience, and challenges kids to be partners in their own learning. I’m hopeful that with the continued work of dedicated teachers and mentors, we will expand access to summer reading resources for all kids. Then, the only slide that we’ll be focused on is the one at the playground.