The summer slide is starting this week for most Ohio students.
But it’s not the slippery steel slope kids enjoy on the playground. It’s the downward slide of skills, especially reading skills, that affects all children when they stop learning.
They start sliding backward. Children can lose two to three months in reading skills over the summer. The drop is especially pernicious for kids in K-3 grades who must learn to read so they are better prepared in fourth grade to read to learn.
The longer summer lasts, the more most children slide, and disadvantaged children are sentenced to the steepest downward slope, lacking the adult-led interactions and nontraditional, but effective learning opportunities that their well-off peers experience.
These opportunities include frequent reading with a parent, weekly trips to libraries, and the availability of dozens or hundreds of books in the home.
Thanks in large part to the summer slide, fewer than 40% of Ohio fourth graders are proficient in reading.
Sadly, the Ohio state legislature will soon debate a new bill designed to make the problem worse.
Introduced by a senator from Lorain County, the bill will greatly benefit Cedar Point and Kings Island amusement parks, which are dependent upon high school students for summer help. The bill will allow students still in high school to extend their availability to work beyond the end of summer. This will allow families to continue spending money at the parks into September.
Setting up the milk bottles at the arcade or hawking cotton candy might be a good summer gig. However, the ramifications of extending a student’s availability to work such a job — and extending the summer break which causes students to fall further behind in learning — may result in this being the only “career” that student can aspire to.
The introduction of this bill would only make the summer slide more closely resemble the steep drops at the Cedar Point roller coasters.
P.S. I’m visiting Germany and Austria this week, where reading skills are much higher. And summer break is only six weeks long.