Digital Reading, Learnings, Library | June 30, 2021

Fighting Learning Loss in 2021: How to Beat the “Summer Slide”


Ideally, summer is a time for students to relax, spend time with their families, and play. Unfortunately, a lack of regular school instruction can lead to significant learning loss, putting children at risk of falling behind in school.

This phenomenon, called the “summer slide,” is a well-known challenge, compounded this year by the coronavirus slide that children have been facing since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and moved classes online. Reading skills are one area where learning loss has the most impact, so it’s critical to keep children reading during the summer and beyond.

The importance of summer reading

In addition to keeping children’s reading skills sharp, something critical to success in school, there are many others benefits of summer reading. Here are some ways summer reading can truly make a difference for children, families, and communities: 

Enhancing educational success and equity

A recent study*, which analyzed a dataset of some 18 million primary school-aged children, found that 52% of children exhibit summer learning loss in English Language Arts across all five years that the researchers analyzed. Some students even lose almost as much as what they learned during the entire preceding school year. Reading during the summer helps mitigate this potentially significant learning loss and therefore helps prevent children from falling behind academically during the next school year and as their education continues.

Parents observe the benefits of reading in their children as well. According to a recent parent survey conducted by the Colorado State Library, when students have access to high-quality books and read over the summer, the summer slide’s impact is greatly reduced.

Reading is also an especially important tool for increasing equity in education. Access to high-quality reading through resources like digital reading collections and participation in summer reading programs, which can be hard to come by in under-resourced communities, helps children learn and grow in many ways, including by strengthening their social emotional learning skills. 

 Worldreader’s summer reading program, part of our larger Keep Children Reading program, helps provide that critical access to a culturally diverse set of books and encourages parents and caregivers to read with their children. Through Worldreader’s  BookSmart app, the summer reading collection is delivered to families directly on phones and tablets they already own and works with minimal data usage. 

The collection is a high-quality virtual library of nearly 400 books in English and Spanish, with titles from over 26 countries provided by 64 international children’s book publishers. Curated for children from ages 3-12, It’s a diverse, cross-cultural look at the world through storybooks. The collection further promotes inclusion by exposing children to new perspectives and supporting their social and emotional awareness.

Promoting quality family time

Reading can also bolster family relationships. Engaging in shared reading is an opportunity for parents and children to bond, use their imaginations together, and allows children to use stories read together as a context to help them express their emotions to their parents.

As children grow,  the benefits of reading continue, especially when reading is a family affair. Research by the Colorado State Library also shows that older children and teens tend to read more when adults in their lives encourage them to read, and also when they see those adults reading often themselves. 

Creating a global perspective

We know that reading isn’t just about understanding the words in a book, but the chance for a reader to use their imagination, explore new cultures and ideas, and much more. 

But we can take the benefits and experience of reading to yet another level by including activities to further make stories come to life, inspire play and creativity, and serve as additional learning tools. These activities provide students, parents, and caregivers tools to work on the five core reading skills, social and emotional learning, and learning through play.  

This multidimensional approach to engage children in reading also reinforces the unique perspectives that readers get through the summer reading collection’s books from around the world.

Since the pandemic started, we have  received several dozen drawings like this one (as well as other completed reading activities) from children all over the world.

You can help keep children reading all summer long! 

Your support of Worldreader’s efforts to bring our digital reading collection to children around the world is especially important this summer because of the added learning loss caused by the “coronavirus slide” over the last year.

Join our summer reading campaign as we help young readers build a better world for themselves, their families, and their communities through the power of reading. Through August 31, any contribution to Worldreader is matched by a generous donor, doubling your impact!





*Atteberry, Allison, and Andrew McEachin. “School’s Out: The Role of Summers in Understanding Achievement Disparities.” American Educational Research Journal 58, no. 2 (2020): 239–82.