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As the school year approaches, a USC professor shares tips to combat 'summer slide'


Summer vacation will soon end, but what you did during the break can help students prepare for academic success.  

Students will soon return to classrooms for the 2023-2024 school year. After weeks away from the classroom, experts say some students may experience “summer slide,” or the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.  

University of South Carolina College of Education professor Catherine Compton-Lilly says there are many ways families can combat the summer slide and build back lost skills before children head back to the classroom.  

Compton-Lilly teaches courses in literacy studies, elementary education and works with local educators. She says giving children a purpose for reading and writing that makes learning easier and more engaging is the key to staving off learning loss.  

“If they are interested in different characters on television or different kinds of stories, or if they’re interested in particular kids of book; this is the time to set them up to recognize that what you do in school is going to help you do the things that you love too.”

Catherine Compton-Lilly
University of South Carolina
Catherine Compton-Lilly

 Capitalizing on summer experiences and searching online for information on the birds, plants and places encountered during the summer is a good place to start. She also said having children to search online for their favorite topics and use Google Images to have them write books about their favorite things, is also beneficial.  
“If you took a trip, have the kids talk about it or write about it, or draw pictures about it. Audio record them talking about their trip this summer and then use software to get it transcribed into words.”  

Spending time with older relatives can also be beneficial.  

“Older relatives can be a resource, but they can also be an importance audience."

Compton-Lilly said students can read to grandparents, even recording themselves and sending those recordings to older relatives. But she also said older family members can share stories from their past, providing yet another opportunity to boost literacy skills.  

“The youngster can draw a picture, if they are very young, of when grandma was young, and the parents can help them write a sentence or two about that picture.”  

If the child is a little older, put them on a family history project and have them talk with three or four members about these stories. They can then write a little story about each one.  

“What’s beautiful about this is not only are you recording the family stories, but the child is creating something I imagine most families would value for generations,” Compton-Lilly said.  

Thelisha Eaddy is the local Morning Edition host for South Carolina Public Radio.