The summer slide and summer reading research

Research from a number of countries has shown the dramatic impact summer learning loss (the summer slide) can have on some students.


The Summer Reading Slide
New Zealand research
International research
EPIC articles
Further reading
Reports on New Zealand Public Library Summer Reading Programmes

The Summer Reading Slide

Although there is limited New Zealand research, what has been done supports international research. It shows that:

  • the consequences are cumulative and long lasting
  • the slide can have a powerful influence on reading scores throughout high-school and beyond
  • low-income children fall further behind than their classmates.
  • the loss is less pronounced or absent in students who have access to books and holiday learning experiences such as travel, museum visits etc.

This Horizons National video with NBC's Brian Williams, illustrates the impact of the summer learning loss - 'summer slide', and although based on US research is equally relevant New Zealand.

New Zealand research

School achievement: Why summer matters: Stuart McNaughton, Rebecca Jesson, Tone Kolose and Sophie Kercher (2012) Teaching and Learning Research Initiative, University of Auckland.

Solving the summer slide, strategies and suggestions: by Louise Turner and Laura Tse. NZCER Set no 1, 2015

An investigation of the effectiveness of a summer school reading intervention in a low decile school as a way of preventing the summer slide in reading Shanthi Tiruchittampalam MEd thesis, University of Auckland, 2006

International research

Addressing Summer Reading Setback Among Economically Disadvantaged Elementary Students: Allington, R L, McGill-Frazen A, Camilli G, Williams L, Graff J,  Zeig J, Zmach C, and Nowak R. Reading Psychology, (31) 5, 411-427, 2010. (You will need to register with Research gate to access this article). This longitudinal experimental study gives evidence to support the importance of giving school students access to self-selected books to address the summer slide and to address the the achievement gap that exists between students from more and less economically advantaged families.

Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap (PDF) Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle, Linda Steffel Olson, John Hopkins University, Baltimore American Sociological Review, 2007, Vol. 72 (April:167–180).

Motivational Attributes of Children and Teenagers Who Participate in Summer Reading Clubs Stephanie Levitt Shaulskiy, Janet L. Capps, Laura M. Justice, Lynley H. Anderman, and Columbus Metropolitan Library. The study looks at demographic and children's and teens' possible extrinsic motivational reasons for participating in Summer Reading Programs (SRP) in a US city.

Reading: The Facts Produced by Canada's National reading Campaign this summer outlines the benefits of reading in all aspects of life, along with a comprehensive list of research to back it up. 


"Results indicated that children and teenagers who participated in the summer reading club had high perceived competencies and value for reading across ages, and that the majority did not report participating to receive a prize (62.5%)."

Solving the Problem of Summer Reading Loss, James S. Kim and Thomas G White. v92 n7 p64-67 Apr 2011
A 2008 experiment suggests that a summer books program, when combined with teacher scaffolding lessons and parent support, can significantly improve the reading achievement of low-income children.

The Dominican study: public library summer reading programs close the reading gap, Dominican University. June 2010. This SLJ article by study authors Carole Fiore and Susan Roman provides an overview of the study, its findings and recommendations.

EPIC articles

The following articles are available through EPIC, a subscription based suite of databases the Ministry of Education provides for all New Zealand schools. EPIC is an excellent resource for finding professional reading not otherwise available on the web. Talk to your school librarian to find out your username and password, or otherwise contact the 0800 Lib Line (0800 542 5463) to ask for assistance in accessing EPIC and these articles.

Summer Reading Goes Web 2.0 Teacher Librarian, Cohen, Sydnye; Spencer, Elizabeth (2012) , 01/02/2012, Vol. 39, Issue 3, p. 39-4. Describes a program where teachers facilitated online student discussions of books during the summer vacation period. Students interested in a specific title were grouped together, rather than use school-wide assignments for the program. Also includes a bibliography of popular books from the program.

What should we read this summer? Davies, Anne (2005) May 2005, Book Links,Vol. 14 Issue 5, p14
Author describes the process of helping primary school children create summer reading lists through collating teachers, class and friends’ favourites.

Independent Reading for summer Vacation-"Looping" in the Library. Locke, June (2006) Book Links, 01/05/2006, Vol. 15, Issue 5, p. 11-13.
The author wanted the students to view summer reading as an enjoyable summer activity. Provided books they could read with ease and accuracy, plastic drawstring and catchy bookmarks. The author prepared packets for each teacher to take home for the summer. Inside the packet include postcards, lists of students' name and addresses and parent letter.

An initiative to counter the “summer reading drop”: An iterative process Set: Research Information for Teachers; Wright, Paul and Wright, Cathy (2011) May 2011, no. 2 (NZCER Press), pp. 38
Sharing strategies to support reading at home during the holidays through a “summer reading contract”, enabled Clayton Park School (primary) to reduce the drop in reading achievement over the summer, including for the lowest performing students across all ethnicities.

Further reading

Summer Reading: Where the real damage occurs - Jim Trelease's brochure for parents.

Summer Reading Loss Maryann Mraz and Timothy V. Rasinski The Reading Teacher Vol. 60, No. 8 May 2007.

The Best Resources on the “Summer Slide” - Great list of resources on the by Larry Ferlazzo.

What reading does for the mind article by Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich.

Three Ways to Prevent Summer Slide by Francie Alexander - short article aimed at parents.

There are Reading Rockets and School Library Journal articles on summer reading as well as the Scholastic Summer reading site.

Reports on New Zealand public library summer reading programmes

Dare to Explore lll Evaluation is a report on Dare to Explore: Auckland Libraries’ summer reading adventure, which ran over the summer of 2012 - 2014.

Final Evaluation Report Summer Reading Programme delivered by ECREADN 2014 (download below)

Image: Blashfield collar painting and mural of Human Understanding, Main Reading Room, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, Washington DC, by Photo Phiend on Flickr