You may have heard teachers and parents talk about the “summer slide.” This term is used to describe the knowledge that children “lose” when they are out of school for summer vacation. They seem to forget what they have learned during the school year and, in some cases, have to relearn information again when they return to school in the fall. Some schools follow a “balanced calendar” where students have shorter vacations from school throughout the year, but most schools continue to dismiss for a long summer vacation (typically 6–8 weeks). For some children, 6–8 weeks is a long time to spend away from school activities and routines.
How can families and caregivers help dual language learners (DLLs) avoid the “summer slide”? An important and fun activity is reading every day with children. Reading books together in the child’s heritage language is ideal. Caregivers, parents, and older siblings can further children’s learning by interacting during book reading time. Provide children time to think and answer questions about the story, give them new words to add to their vocabulary, and have them retell the story in their own words.
Increasing young DLLs’ language skills and vocabulary in their heritage language is important for learning future academic skills. The public library may have children’s books in different languages. There may also be exchanges where families can share books among neighbors, family, and friends. Letting children choose books that they want their family and caregivers to read to them can add excitement to a daily summer reading activity. When children have an interest in a book, they are more likely to listen and retain the story.
In addition to the public library, there are a number of websites to help families and caregivers find culturally and linguistically diverse stories for young children (e.g., Scholastic, Colorín Colorado, Lee and Low Books). Reading each day during the summer break helps DLLs return to school next fall equipped with new vocabulary and ready for a new school year.