Beating the Summer Slump: How Libraries Can Help

Written by Andrea Simmons

Summer can be a wonderful time for kids, full of fun, activity and excitement. It provides a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of a busy school year. However, for some kids, summertime can create a dangerous break in learning and that can lead to a loss in core skills that is hard to recover. This phenomenon, called the “Summer Slump”, can cause kids to lose up to two months of learning in both math and reading.

Kids from lower income families are hit the hardest by dips in summer learning activities. Higher income kids typically have access to technology at home and they are often sent to summer camps that have an integrated learning element to them, so they have more exposure to learning activities. Lower income kids often don’t have the same access to technology and other learning resources.

The challenge for educators and parents is how to encourage summer learning activities, without squashing the fun or breaking the bank. One such way is to incorporate libraries into summer activities. Libraries excel in summer programming and many are actively adding new opportunities for learning for kids of all ages.

Here are some summer library programs that can help bust the summer slump:

Summer Reading Clubs

Many libraries have started structured summer reading clubs. These clubs, which often come in multiple levels for elementary and teen readers, offer a framework for encouraging reading. They often set-up models to gamify book reading, including providing recommendations for themes or titles and offering incentives or points for completed books. Other programs encourage free choice, simply rewarding kids on the number of books they complete, leaving the subjects and level up to them.

Reading books is a solid, proven way of reducing the summer slump. Studies out of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education show that reading even 4-5 books can help reduce the summer slump, while reading 12 books seemed to be the magic number for making the most impact on reading skills.

Libraries provide kids with easy and free access to books, making reading not only fun, but an accessible task for all kids.


Libraries are transforming. They’re transitioning from book borrowing locations to become community hubs where people gather for idea sharing and communal activities. To address this, many public libraries have set up in-library makerspaces. These are “do-it-yourself” spaces where people gather to create, invent and learn. Makerspaces have become a core element in many teen programs, as they provide a creative outlet that supports learning objectives in a cloaked way. Kids can create things, like robots, tools, drones, jewelry, and machines all while learning the mechanics behind them as they build. Some libraries also do themed makerspace programming like Lego robot building or instrument creation and recording workshops.

Many kids simply perceive these activities as fun, but there is lots of learning happening too.

Summer Coding Camps

Coding isn’t just for adults anymore. Schools and libraries have started to offer ‘learning to code’ workshops for kids as young as kindergarten. Coding is a great way to help kids improve their problem-solving skills and develop strong analytical reasoning. Kids who code get a great foundation of skills that transfers well into math and science. Plus, coding is fun, so it doesn’t feel like work. Summer coding camps also help students keep up their existing technology skills and develop new ones.

These programming camps and coding events provide technology access to all kids, allowing those who don’t have computers at home to still learn valuable technology skills, which is essential for future work prospects.

Encouraging Learning at Home

If your library doesn’t have structured programs that fit your needs, parents and summer caregivers can also play an active role in using the library’s resources to fuel summer learning. Make going to the library and picking out new books a part of your weekly activities. Pick a theme and challenge each other to find new and interesting facts that you didn’t know. Or combine reading with other summer activities like gardening to combine some mental exercise with physical activity.

You can even use programs like Learning Bird to help research topics of interest or dive deeper into a subject. Learning Bird is full of bite-sized, topic-aligned content that’s perfectly designed to meet the learning objectives of students in grades 6-12. You can search by keyword to learn more about your favorite science concepts or pull up a lesson to help explain some of the subtle themes in the Hunger Games.

If you are on the lookout for some great summer books to add to your library list, check out our 5 Books that Every Teen Must Have on their Summer Reading List post.

Have fun crushing the summer slump!

About the author

Andrea Simmons

Andrea has a lifelong love of learning and has worked in the marketing and communications field for over 20 years, helping organizations share stories and build compelling content. When not writing, Andrea can often be found weeding her garden, baking something decadent, or building new worlds out of Lego.

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