Research has shown that children experience learning loss, sometimes referred to as “summer slide,” when they do not participate in educational activities during the summer months. According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), an organization providing resources, guidance and expertise to the summer learning community, studies have found that:
• All young people experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.
• Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the end of the school year.
• Most children lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills during the summer months. Some students also lose more than two months in reading achievement.
• Most kids gain weight more rapidly during summer break.
• Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.
How can parents keep their kids from experiencing summer learning loss and still allow them to take a break from the rigors of the classroom?
Many educational experts advise parents to give their kids a head start by checking with teachers about curriculum for the upcoming school year and planning summer activities around it. For example, if fractions are on the lesson plan, spend time cooking together and let kids do the measuring. If possible, plan a family vacation that ties in with a topic that will be covered in history or geography, and have kids keep a travel journal. Encourage children to read age-appropriate books that relate to topics they will be studying in the upcoming school year.
Following are other suggestions for preventing summer brain drain:
• Enroll your child in an academic camp. “Academic camp” may sound like an oxymoron, but when kids are learning about something in which they are interested, learning is fun. There are academic camps tailored to a variety of topics, including foreign language, science, computer technology, astronomy, digital photography, environmental studies, video game design, and just about any other topic a child might want to explore.
• Check out area learning centers. Those that provide tutoring or enrichment programs year-round often offer summer camps in reading, writing, math, etc. Kids typically learn in small groups, and material is presented in a way that is rewarding and fun.
• Check out local library programs. The St. Charles County Library offers summer reading clubs and other educational programming for young children and teens.
• Incorporate reading, writing and math into daily activities. Have kids write out the grocery list, read recipes aloud, measure ingredients and count silverware. When in the car, play games that require reading billboards, maps and guidebooks; have older kids calculate the gas mileage on the family car. At restaurants, ask kids to read the menu and determine what the total meal will cost; then have them figure out how much to leave for a tip. Play board games and card games that require reading, math and logic skills. Have kids calculate their basketball free throw percentage when practicing in the driveway. Play a game of hangman with sidewalk chalk. Download educational games to the iPad and computer.
• Send your child to summer camp for a week or two. According to the NSLA and research conducted by Karl Alexander, a Johns Hopkins sociology professor, intentional summer programs – like camp – help prevent summer learning loss by providing experiences that challenge children, develop talents, keep kids engaged and expand horizons in “nature’s classroom.”
Visit the National Summer Learning Association website, summerlearning.org, for more information on summer learning loss.