Weather Forecast


Local teacher, library offer advice for kids to avoid ‘summer slide’

In this undated photo, Adrian Cruz, left, and Keilynn Swenson, read aloud to one another in Nick Clasemann’s second-grade classroom at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that students can lose the equivalent of two months of reading or math skills over the summer if their brains aren’t kept active. It’s referred to as “summer slide.” Tribune photo

Kristen Egge can tell in September whether her students were engaged in academic activities during their summer break. “Kids need to read and write and do a little bit of math every day,” said Egge, a fifth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar.

The Willmar Public Library can help kids stay on track with its animal-themed summer program called “Paws to Read.” Children’s librarian Kathy Torkelson described a number of special events that will revolve around animals and books.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that students can lose the equivalent of two months of reading or math skills over the summer if their brains aren’t kept active. It’s called the “summer slide.”

The Department of Education estimates that more than half of achievement gaps have to do with less access to summer programs among low-income students.

Egge and other teachers are always looking for ways to exercise students’ academic muscles over the summer.

“I tell my students, 20 minutes a day reading; if you like it, do more,” she said. She also encourages 20 minutes of math and writing, a total of an hour a day.

Her 20-minute suggestion is the ideal, she said, but “if it’s only been 10 minutes, and they’re bored, at least they did 10 minutes.” The 20 minutes for each subject can be broken up throughout the day, or incorporated into family activities, too, she said.

Her students will be involved with the Scholastic summer reading program this summer. Information is available at

The goal of her students is to break a world record, she said. The reading program is free, and students can log the minutes they read in the program’s software. The website is easy to use, she said. “My first-grader is figuring it out.”

The reading program is online, but students without access to a computer at home can still participate, she said. They can log in on a tablet or a smartphone, which many people have, or they can read books from the library and use computers there to log in their reading time.

Scholastic and many other companies and websites offer worksheets, lessons and activities for all ages, many at no cost.

Egge said many things around the home can be used for no cost or very little cost.

“Parents can tear out a picture from a magazine and have a child journal for 20 minutes, telling a story about the picture,” she said. The Willmar Public Library has a bin of free magazines in its entryway.

Parents could take a child shopping for a special notebook for their summer writing, she suggested.

Sidewalk chalk can be used for an outdoor math and art lesson. She is sending packets of information families can use to build on the math instruction children had during the year.

For her English Learner students, especially for those who are newer to school, Egge said she sends home materials at their level. She often includes flash cards, work sheets and other materials they can keep. Often, they have other siblings who will help them or benefit from the materials, too.

“We’ve been encouraging children to keep their skills up for the summer,” Torkelson said. “I tell them you don’t always have to read textbooks; when you’re reading for fun, you can ready anything you want.”

Children who participate in the summer reading can join a book club, watch movies and win prizes if they keep busy with books, Torkelson said. The library also has summer reading programs and book clubs for teens and adults.

Willmar Stingers players read to kids at the library several times every summer, and other special events are scheduled.

In the final weeks of the school year, many classes have toured the library, Torkelson said, and she talks to them about the summer programs.

She tells them that summer is a great time to read, “and they can earn some prizes.” Many area businesses provide financial support for the summer events and prizes, she said.

The library will have weekly events in the Paws to Read program along with story hours, visits from 4-H on Wheels. A new program will give kids a chance to read to dogs in June and July.

For more information or to register for programs, visit the library at 410 Fifth St. S.W. or call 235-3162.

Several tribune readers posted their advice on the Tribune’s Facebook page last week. Deb Mortenson suggested, something she’s used in the summer. Amy Isaacson said, “We take a weekly trip to the library all summer long and read every day at our house.”

And from Teresa Behm said her family was creating a “Gettin’ Ready for 5th Grade” chart, where her son can early points by completing assignments in many different areas. “At the end of the summer, the points become prizes!” she wrote.

Here’s a list of other websites recommended by Egge and other sources.

Advice for keeping children actively engaged in learning in the summer is available from many sources.

- U.S. Department of Education,, offers advice and ideas, also follow it @usedgov on Twitter and check the department’s Facebook page.

- The Minnesota Department of Education offers advice and opportunities to register for summer reading and math programs at; click on Summer Learning Opportunities under the Just for Parents tab.

-, offering arts and crafts projects to engage kids’ minds

-, math activities categorized by grade level and type of activity

-, math and language arts lessons by grade, with information about how activities fit into each state’s academic standards

-, offers reading materials, games and blogs

-, math games from kindergarten through high school

-, for early childhood learning

-, activities and games to build vocabulary and spelling skills.

- – the National Gallery of Art’s interactive kids’ site.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340