Phyllis R. Dixon, Special to The New Tri-State Defender | 6/10/2017, 9:25 a.m.
Summer doesn’t have to be a step back for your student.

The summer slide isn’t a theme park ride or line dance, but rather the learning loss that occurs when children forget academic material after long breaks from school. The summer slide hurts all students, but is even more detrimental for lower-income students.

Even though teachers spend an average of 4 to 6 weeks re-teaching skills that students have lost during the summer, these children do not typically catch up in the fall. And, summer reading loss is cumulative. So by the end of fifth grade, low-income children lag behind their more affluent peers by almost three years.

Tips to prevent summer slide

Studies indicate reading just six books during the summer can prevent a decline in a child’s fall reading scores. Make sure it’s not too easy – or too hard.

Make it a family affair. Set aside time for all family members to read. Have older children read to younger siblings.

Some suburban school districts have summer reading lists, so students can hit the ground running at the beginning of the school term. If you know the school your child will be attending, ask the principal if a reading list is available.

Reading is the foundation of learning, but writing and math are also critical. Encourage your child to write letters to relatives, or keep a summer journal. Reinforce math skills by letting them cook from a recipe, which teaches fractions, or practice addition, subtraction and multiplication while grocery shopping.

Take advantage of the Memphis and Shelby County Public Library’s “Explore Memphis” summer program. Activities range from chess to robotics to story time; and everything is free.

But there is good news; the summer slide is preventable.

Children should read 20 to 30 minutes per day. Let your child choose the book. They want to go to McDonalds? Tell them to read and write about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds. Kids into “Paw Patrol?” The library has books in the “Paw Patrol” series.

Does it matter if your child reads on a digital device?

The jury is still out on whether reading from a screen or a printed book is more effective. Some researchers say the medium doesn’t matter, while others say the brain reacts differently depending on the medium. I’ll admit, I am biased toward traditionally printed books. Reading from a printed book will nurture a longer attention span since there are no potentially distracting graphics and hyperlinks, and, researchers say recall is better. Also, you don’t have to worry about charging up a book or paying your phone bill.

But whether kids “Google” something, or read from a tablet, any activity that involves reading – regardless of the medium – encourages learning.

“Children who aren’t reading proficiently by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school,” according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This is the beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline. Depending on whose study you believe, from one-third to 70 percent of incarcerated individuals did not finish high school. Reading ability is a key school dropout predictor.