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The slide all kids should avoid this summer

Owen-Wilkes-reading.jpgThis summer is in full swing! While children across Maine are enjoying outdoor activities, make sure reading also tops that summer fun list. Research suggests children are susceptible to what is known as the “summer slide,” a tendency for students to lose literacy (and other) gains they made during the previous school year. Katherine (Kate) Bartley, EMHS Community Health and Grants program manager for child health, sat down with us, to talk about Raising Readers, the collaborative EMHS reading program, and why engaging children in the early stages of life can make all the difference.

Raising Readers began 17 years ago as one of EMHS’ first collaborations with MaineHealth in Portland. An integrated part of birth and children’s primary care appointments, Raising Readers provides books to children that support their changing developmental stages from birth to age five. Kate explains, “This program is helping children prepare for school and reminding families of the importance of reading with their children.” She continues to explain the direct connection between literacy and health, “Reading is critical to all facets of life—school, career, and health. Literacy has been linked to less frequent use of preventive services and higher hospitalization rates, which often results in higher healthcare costs.”

While this age group, from birth to five, isn’t typically the focus of discussions about summer slide, Raising Readers early literacy advisor, Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, has a few ideas of things you can do with your littlest learners during the more relaxed days of summer that will benefit school-age children as well.

Dr-Sabbagh-and-patient.jpgParents often wonder about the effect of digital media and electronic reading tools on their child’s development. EMMC Pediatric Primary Care physician, and Raising Readers clinical advisor, Colette Sabbagh, MD, says, “Screen time for children doesn’t inherently have a negative effect on their literacy development. You can learn the same thing from a screen as you can from a book—it’s the lack of interactive participation from your child with electronics that can start to have a negative effect.” Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics site to learn more about their Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.

As the summer flies by, as Maine summers can, grab a book and spend a little time each day helping the child in your life avoid the summer slide. For more resources to promote the love of readingincluding recommended book lists, fun book activity kits, and morevisit the Raising Readers website at https://www.raisingreaders.org/. Follow the program on social media for engaging articles and fresh reading activities for the family. You can Like, Pin, and Tweet them, or find Raising Readers on Instagram and YouTube.