The countdown to summer has begun as the regular school year for many young people is coming to a close. Families and children are ready for new routines. For many of us, summer break means camps, vacations and trips to museums and libraries. For others, it means a slower pace and relaxation. Although not intended, many children experience the “summer slide,” as they take a break from formal learning during the summer. This “slide” inevitably leads to summer learning loss.

According to a 2011 report released by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in reading and math for American students equals almost one month per year. For low-income students, who often don’t have access to educational camps, vacations, and books during the summer, the learning loss is more significant. The stakes for these children are high as they typically experience an average summer learning loss in reading comprehension and word recognition of over two months. These losses accumulate over time and keep students from achieving their potential.

In 2012, one in five South Carolina students in third grade was not reading on grade level. By eighth grade, one in three students is not reading on grade level. Summer reading loss contributes to these statistics, which have remained stagnant for many years. Students who don’t read well struggle to graduate from high school; they face an ongoing struggle to learn and even diminished success over their lifetime.

The good news is that reading five books over the summer can prevent learning loss in reading for a young person. Children should be empowered to choose books that interest them so they can build an appreciation for reading; they will more likely become lifelong readers and learners.

Once again, county libraries are sponsoring reading programs this summer to encourage and reward preschool and school-age children and their families for summer reading. This year’s program themes, “Dig into Reading” for young children and “Beneath the Surface” for teens, focus on motivating young people to read and experience the adventure and excitement of books that interest them.

There are other ways to help:

■ Read to children. There is no better way to help children than to read to them or with them.

■ Take extra children’s books to local schools, summer programs or daycare centers.

■ Think of innovative ways to promote reading in your community or your workplace — company billboards and bulletin boards can be a great space to spread the word.

■ Encourage the children in your life to ask “Why?” and then find the answer through reading.

■ Model good behavior and get caught reading yourself.

■ Congratulate students personally and publicly for academic achievement — every chance you get. Expect them to do their best in and out of school.

The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee shares the belief that reading over the summer, along with proper motivation and support, can help children avoid the “summer reading slide” and go back to school ready to succeed. All of us can help children dream BIG by giving of our time and our resources this summer.

To read about other ways you can help kids love reading, visit the EOC website at

Melanie Barton is executive director of the S.C. Education Oversight Committee.