Summer Slide: How Caribu Can Help Your Family Build Literacy Skills

By Beth S. Pollak

When class is out in summertime, schools often provide options to keep kids involved in learning: summer programs, online exercises, reading challenges, and (the dreaded) homework packets. The goal is to prevent summer slide—a loss of academic skills if kids are not engaged in educational activities over the long break. According to the NWEA, during summertime, kids from 3rd-8th grade lose upwards of 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math. 

Since most students have been out of the classroom for even longer this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to maintain regular learning routines so kids can continue to build their academic skills. With many libraries closed, parents juggling work with childcare, and a limited budget for books, what can families do to avoid summer slide? 

The Caribu app is an excellent tool to support kids’ reading while they are learning from home. It provides an easy-to-access library of hundreds of books and activities that children can read and enjoy from almost any device, anywhere in the world. They can connect in a video-call with relatives near and far to share in learning together, or read independently with the app at their fingertips. Caribu’s in-app library organizes books by age level and subject so families can easily select books that match children’s interests and skills. Read on to learn more about how to assist your kids’ distance learning, and how you can use Caribu to prevent summer slide and enjoy virtual playdates. 

Exercise Your Reading Muscles Every Day 

Creating a consistent reading routine is key to building literacy skills. Educators recommend that kids should read alone or with an adult for at least 20-30 minutes per day. Think about it as exercise: the more kids stretch and build their reading muscles, the more those muscles will grow. 

With every extra minute of reading, kids are exposed to more vocabulary words, story-telling structures, life lessons, and knowledge about the world. Even for the youngest children, regular storytime builds ‘reading readiness’ skills that prepare them for independent learning and classroom competence. 

Storytime also creates a space for adults to bond with children, and build a foundation for conversations about interests, family, behavior, and values. Here are some tips to help with the routine: 

  • Set-up a comfortable reading space where kids can stash their books and share Caribu video-calls. Let them pick their favorite stuffed animals and cushions to make it a welcoming spot for remote learning. 
  • Commit to a regular time each day when you and your family can support children’s reading, through read-alouds, Caribu calls, or helping with tricky words and book choices. Make this reading time non-negotiable and sacred; it should be a chance for you and your kids to enjoy the magic of connection, imagination, and stories.
  • If you get cabin fever from time to time, switch it up and read in a quiet spot outdoors. 
  • For busy weeks, try Caribu’s ‘Quick Reads’ category! Enjoy these short and sweet stories together on a video call. You may also want to set a 20-30 minute timer to help everyone stay on track. 
  • Consider creating a sticker chart to reward kids for meeting daily/weekly goals.

Plus, when you are busy balancing work calls with storytime, Caribu can give you a break with Video Read Alouds. Scroll through the in-app video selection of some of Caribu’s favorite books, and enjoy read alouds by authors and celebrity guests. Share their voices, humor and reading style with your kids so they can ‘meet’ new teachers from a safe social distance. Let Caribu be your virtual babysitter as your kids follow along with a video reading of the text!

Each video shows both the storyteller and the pages of the book. Kids can enjoy the book’s illustrations and read the words as they listen to the story.

Choose Books That Kids Will Enjoy

Studies show — and parents know! — that when reading is fun, kids read more and demonstrate progress in their literacy skills. More than anything, it’s essential to provide kids with a variety of books that they enjoy reading

  • Browse through the Caribu app to find books and activities that grab kids’ attention. 
  • Ask your kids what types of stories they want to read, and which topics they are interested in exploring. 
  • Pay attention to their favorite toys, shows, and games, and look for books with related characters or themes. For example, if you notice that your child loves playing with trains, you might want to try the Thomas and FriendsTM series, and explore other books about transportation. There are usually many choices available that offer both factual and imaginative texts. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t challenge your kids to try books that are outside of their comfort zone! Usually, kids will latch-on to high-quality books no matter the topic. Look for memorable language and rhymes, bright illustrations, creative characters, and imaginative plots.  

With the Caribu app, your family will have access to hundreds of texts and activities that everyone will enjoy. Caribu’s library includes books from kids’ favorite genres, like animal stories, fairy tales, nature, space adventures, sports, friendships, and more.

Caribu also features classics like Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, Barbie and DC Kids. With so many choices, you can always find a special read to share together in a virtual playdate. 

Making Reading Relevant

Kids, like most people, want to read books that feel relevant to their lives. They might have questions around topics like: What happens if you don’t tell the truth? What happens if you exclude a friend? How does it feel to go to the hospital? Caribu’s in-app library features many titles that deal with social-emotional issues that matter to kids, like friendships, family relationships, and interpersonal behaviors. It’s important to include books like these in kids’ libraries so they can learn approaches to handling tough situations. 

Kids might normally learn about these situations in school, either through real-life experience or through classroom discussions. However, while children are out of class, reading books like these can help them learn to navigate social-emotional challenges in life, and encourage them to ask questions along the way. 

In addition, Caribu’s library includes kid-friendly books that address current events and contemporary issues like COVID-19, anti-racism, and environmental awareness. These books can provide a starting point for conversation and action in your family. 

Read And Repeat

If you read often with kids, you know how often they finish a book and say, “Again?” This preference not only shows their love for literature. It also reflects a desire to better understand and explore the characters and concepts in the story. Studies say repetition can help kids learn vocabulary words and literacy skills more effectively. 

With a Caribu subscription, you can read your favorite books as many times as you like. The next time your child or grandchild says “One more time?” you can simply re-start and page through your favorite book again. Extend the fun with new voices, point out pictures you didn’t discuss during the first read, and ask questions about what children are thinking the second time around. Read and repeat to help build reading readiness, and grow your connection through shared stories. 

Math Matters

Avoiding summer slide isn’t just about reading; it’s important to practice math skills as well. Fortunately, Caribu provides engaging books and activities to help kids build number sense and practice mathematical thinking.

Choose 1-2 days each week to focus on math learning through reading. Alternate between different math texts and activities, and repeat them from time to time to help kids retain and practice what they have learned.  

  • ‘I’m Learning’ books teach the basics of shapes and numbers.  
  • ‘Little Number Stories’ series introduces younger kids to addition and subtraction. 
  • ‘Vizkidz’ books teach older kids about fractions and data.
  • ‘Tiny Guru’ activities help kids with goal-setting and teach them about money.    
  • Caribu’s Origami books support hands-on geometry practice
  • Caribu’s Sudoku puzzles encourage kids to problem-solve with patterns, images, and numbers. 
  • Caribu’s ‘Matching’ activities and other puzzles are great practice for logical reasoning skills 

Science Explorations

With dozens of titles about animals, nature, space, and the environment, the Caribu app offers exciting opportunities to learn about science. Most books feature full-color illustrations or large photographs so you can explore your favorite science topics in detail. Choose 1-2 days per week to focus on science fun! Some topics to try:

  • Read books that feature different ecosystems to learn about plant and animal interactions. Explore fascinating traits of unusual creatures, from ‘Animal Athletes’ to ‘Animal Tricksters,’ and learn about dinosaurs from prehistoric times.
  • Take a look at behind-the-scenes work that zoologists and scientists complete every day, and explore ways that people are working on conservation and environmental protection. 
  • Blast off into outer space with Caribu’s books about space shuttles, famous astronauts, and the moon.  
  • Play and puzzle with Caribu’s science-related word searches, mazes, and ‘Spot the Difference’ activities.  

Grow This Summer With #CampCaribu

One way to help beat summer slide is to participate in our #CampCaribu summer reading challenge! Each week, Caribu features a curated selection of books and activities around a particular theme that kids love, like superheroes, animal friendships, and more! Kids can read and connect while enjoying all of the highlighted stories and puzzles. They also can read and play independently, and enjoy the Video Read Alouds featured in the app. Track kids’ progress with the #CampCaribu reading log, and participate every day to qualify for weekly drawings and prizes. Go to to sign up and get started.  

Building a reading routine that includes connecting with Caribu and your favorite books will bring your family together while school is out, and help prevent summer slide. Schedule weekly Caribu Calls with relatives and friends to make the most of all of the in-app books and activities, and help kids build their literacy skills while strengthening relationships and having fun. 

Beth S. Pollak is a writer and educator based in California. In addition to working with Caribu, she consults with educational organizations and EdTech companies. Beth has worked as a teacher and journalist in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. She holds degrees in journalism, bilingual education, and educational leadership. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, picnics, and dance.