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How to Prevent the Summer Slide for Middle Schoolers, Pt. 1

Even though the solstice isn’t until next week, summer for most students is in full swing. And with a large break from school, many students experience what has been deemed “the summer slide,” or a drop in academic performance at the beginning of the school year. Idle days spent watching tv or playing mobile games turn the precious lessons of school days past into vague memories, and by the time the new school year starts, what was once so easy to accomplish becomes a struggle.

It’s a common problem, but it doesn’t have to be. Indeed, the summer slide that ails many students can be prevented with purposeful, frequent practice. What exactly does that entail?

For starters, there’s a misconception that preventing the summer slide is essentially creating a school-like environment to fill in the gap between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. If you are able to do that, then more power to you! But for those who are daunted with the task of building skills and reinforcing learning from the school year, there are still ways to keep one foot in the academic world and the other in the festivities of summer break.

If you are strapped for time, or drained from the school year, then my recommendation is to focus on a few skills (and don’t over do it!). For middle schoolers, reading and writing are important areas to develop, and these actually can benefit from the unstructured time of summer.

This week, I will talk about reading.

The best way to improve reading is simply to read, preferably ~1 hour per day. There are, of course, important distinctions to make about WHY you are reading in the first place. Is it for pleasure? To learn something? To go to a place impossible to visit? Maybe all or some of the above?

Novels appropriate for middle school readers have vastly divergent purposes and functions, so this list first addresses those disparities by offering ways to categorize these books. Consider these labels:

1. Classics from 19th and 20th Centuries

2. Contemporary Young Adult Literature

3. Historical Fiction (Contemporary and Classics)

4. Genre Fiction: Fantasy, Mystery, and Science Fiction

5. Other Genres: Graphic Novels, Poetry, Non-Fiction

Depending on what skills you want to master, you should narrow your search to a specific category. For example, for students who want to improve main idea and summarization, you should start with a genre they are most comfortable with, such as Genre Fiction, something that most young readers enjoy. Each of the following categories will have a list of selected books, including what skills these books would help build the most (of course, all skills for reading can be developed with any text).

These lists are in no way exhaustive, as there are numerous novels that students can read in all the following categories, so treat this as a guide.

Also, if you want to peruse some handy lists, check out these places:

Youth Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) – releases a list of recommended reading every year as the “Best Fiction for Young Adults.”

John Newbery Medal Award Winners and Honor Books – the award is the most prestigious for YA literature and includes a list of annual winners and “Honor Books,” or finalists.

Consider developing these skills when working with novels:

· Annotating

· Author’s Purpose

· Details

· Figurative Language

· Inferences

· Main Idea

· Plot

· Predicting

· Summarization

· Theme

· Tone

· Vocab-in-Context

Classics from 19th and 20th Centuries

GOOD FOR: Annotating, Details, Figurative Language, and Vocab-in-Context

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Contemporary Young Adult Literature

GOOD FOR: Author’s Purpose, Inferences, Main Idea, Plot, Predicting, and Tone

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli

The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Esperanza Rising Pam Muñoz Ryan

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Historical Fiction (Contemporary and Classics)

GOOD FOR: Annotating, Details, Plot, Predicting, and Vocab-in-Context

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Genre Fiction: Fantasy, Mystery, and Science Fiction

GOOD FOR: Author’s Purpose, Main Idea, Summarizations, Predicting, Plot, and Inferences

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (mystery)

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (science fiction)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (fantasy)

The Earthsea Cycle (series) by Ursula K. Le Guin (science fiction)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (mystery)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy)

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (science fiction)

Other Genres: Graphic Novels, Poetry, Non-Fiction

GOOD FOR: Author’s Purpose, Inferences, Main Idea, Plot, Predicting, Summarization, Theme, Tone

Booked and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (poetry)

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai (poetry)

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel)

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (non-fiction)

At B2A, we have camps, enrichment classes, and individual tutoring to prevent middle schoolers from getting the summer slide, so if you want more structure and personalized attention for your summer studies, then look no further than our programs! If you want, we can even set up tutoring so your student works through one of the books listed above; the tutor can check on their reading while also working on the skills mentioned in this post. No matter the reading state you find yourself or your student in, we are here to make academics as cool as a summer breeze.

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