Summertime provides children with a welcome break from the rigors of the classroom. Summer means fun away from school – playtime with friends, family gatherings, vacation, adventure, and lazy days. But when children spend two or more months away from the regular exercise of learning they are at risk of the “summer slide.”
Following U.S. students across five summers between grades 1 and 6, 52 percent experienced learning losses in all five summers, according to a large national study published in 2020. Summer learning loss or “summer slide,” is the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation in countries that have lengthy breaks in the school year, and it is real.
The authors from the study that appeared in the American Educational Research Journal found that although some students learn more than others during the school year, most are moving in the same direction -- that is, making learning gains -- while school is in session. The same cannot be said for summers, when more than half of students show learning losses year after year.
Kids not exposed to ongoing summer learning, such as reading and solving math problems, can lose anywhere from one to three months of what they learned in the previous grade. When that happens, children start the next year playing catch up. If they suffer the slide continually in the early years, it creates a potentially life-long problem.
The good news is, there are many fun and enriching educational experiences parents, families, and communities can do to stop the summer slide.
How can you help?
1. Make it a family effort:
With siblings, parents and relatives devoting regular time to reading, writing, and learning. Whatever you do, make it fun and interactive. Your child will enjoy new adventures, especially if they are with the people they love most in this world – their parents and families.
2. Read, read, read:
Reading is the single most impactful activity for young children in the summer. A summer reading program helps maintain and advance reading and language comprehension from one grade to the next grade.
3. Visit your local public library or museums as a family:
Challenge your child to think about what they learned from the experience by describing interesting details of what they learned or what they still want to know. Ask them questions that stretch their thinking, such as “Why do you think that?” or “What would happen if…?” Trips to the library are also a good way to put an educational spin on family time and cultivate lifetime learners.
4. Shop and cook together:
Have your children choose the menu and the recipes. They should check the pantry and the refrigerator to see what they already have and what they need to add to the shopping list using their creativity and writing skills. Ask children to guess how many pasta shells are in a box or ask them questions about what they notice – like the cold and warms parts of stores. Shopping can be one of the most enriching learning activities for young children!
5. Encourage play:
Do puzzles and play board games. Start an art project, a nature scavenger hunt, or free play outside with peers. Encourage your kids to play consistently and often with other children. Oral language between children of similar and different ages contributes significantly to their reading comprehension and vocabulary, as well as their social-emotional skills – all of which will prepare them for the grade that lies ahead in the fall.
6. Inspire creative writing:
They can do any of the following: 1. Compose a letter or email. · 2. Rewrite the ending of any story you've read. · 3. Write a story with a friend. · 4. Learn a secret code. Then write a note in that secret code. 5. Write a poem and illustrate it. 6. Write a family newspaper. 7. Pick 13 random words. Use them to tell a story.
Instead of jumping into new material after summer vacation, kids typically have to backtrack. Teachers need to re-teach old skills students were supposed to have remembered from last year. Don’t waste all those summer weeks and sometimes months of valuable learning time because of the dreaded Summer Slide. Make sure your kids don’t slide backward keep them ahead of the game and they will be able to jump leaps and bounds past their peers academically. It only takes 20-30 minutes a day to prevent summer learning loss. And if you set up a daily schedule, you can not only prevent the loss but set your kids up for a lifetime of academic success.