Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Avoid the “Summer Reading Slide”

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post is from Samantha Kelly, a teacher of students with visual impairments in Florida, who provides us with wonderful suggestions for helping our children elude summertime regression in reading.

Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Avoid the “Summer Reading Slide”

by Samantha Kelly

school-aged girl reading braille

Summertime. While the children are hyper-focused on keeping cool and enjoying the playground, parents are worried about preventing “summer slide” or the loss of skills acquired during the school year. While all students benefit from summer reading, students who are visually impaired benefit from a few extra considerations when preparing to prevent summer slide.

Consider the following:

  1. All books are not equal. Speak to your child’s teacher in advance to determine the reading level or recommended books for the summer. Reading books that are too difficult may be discouraging, and books that are too simple may be boring for your child.

  2. Make sure you have the right devices. If your child uses magnifiers, a CCTV, reading stands, or other devices make sure your child has access to these devices over the summer. Before the end of the school year, speak to your Teacher of the Visually Impaired or Division of Blind Services office.

  3. Ensure you have braille books and audiobooks on hand. If your child uses audio or braille books, order books in advance, so your child has access to materials daily. Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of braille material resources.

  4. Consider having your child enter a summer reading competition. Often local libraries host reading challenges and provide rewards to students for pages/books read. If your library does not host a challenge, consider setting up your own.

  5. Set aside a small window of time for reading each day. Students who are visually impaired miss some of the incidental reading opportunities like the back of cereal box or street signs. It is important that your child reads each day for at least 30 minutes. Follow any suggestions from your child’s teachers and keep it fun by taking turns reading to one another, finding enjoyable books, and incorporating a reward system for those who just don’t find reading enjoyable.

  6. Provide creative ways to sneak in reading. Brainstorm a few out-of-the-box reading opportunities. The use of recipes for simple cooking activities will provide reading and a fun experience in the kitchen. Consider seeking a pen pal for your child through the National Federation of the Blind’s Slate Pals program.

  7. Reach out to local resources. If your child was offered summer school or extended school year services, it will likely benefit your child’s reading skills to attend. There may also be specialized camps in your area for youth with visual impairments; check out their reading instruction and curriculum to determine if it would benefit your child. Lastly, the National Federation of the Blind offers the Bell Academy to improve braille reading for children ages four to 12.

Please share any resources you have for other parents!

When your child returns to school in the fall, he/she and the teachers will be thankful for your efforts to maintain your child’s reading skills. Remember, summertime is for playing with neighbors, vacationing, keeping cool in the sprinklers, and sliding down water slides, but it needn’t involve the summer reading slide!

FamilyConnect Resources

Summertime Activities to Advance Orientation and Mobility Skills

Five Summertime Activities That Buy Parents of Preschool Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired a Few Minutes of Free Time

Mixed Emotions About Going Back to School