My 6-year-old son, Carter, just graduated from Kindergarten last week. Now, it’s on to the wonders and magic of his first, real summer vacation. He learned heaps in his first year of school. The real question is: Can I help him to retain that knowledge and prepare him for the rigorous and demanding schedule and curriculum of the first grade?

When he had his end-of-year assessment with his fantastic teacher, Ms. Diaz, she said the most important thing we could do this summer is read- we should read together and he should read independently. She emphasized the importance of allowing him to enjoy his summer, but to read daily, even if for only 15 minutes a day. She also emphasized making reading fun with interesting reading activities and subjects that he is genuinely interested in.

I asked Ms. Diaz, “What about math and science and geography? Should we start incorporating those?” With confidence that years of teaching brings, she simply said, “No. Just read. And have fun.”

And she is absolutely right. It is clear that the ability to read is the key to a great overall educational experience. It is the foundation of learning. We also know that research shows that children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative- by the end of the 6th grade, children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates who do keep up on reading.

This summer, we plan to hit the water park, eat lots of popsicles, find adventure in the mountains at the family cabin and most importantly- to just read.