Over the summer, students typically lose the equivalent of about a month’s worth of learning, mostly in the areas of math facts and spelling. Research has also found that summer learning loss is more severe among students with disabilities, English language learners and students living in poverty.
But researchers’ understanding of summer loss is continually evolving. For instance, one study found that the students who experienced the biggest losses were the ones who had shown the biggest gains just before the test at the end of the school year. This raises questions about whether their gains were true gains or just the result of special preparation for the test.
Some parents take advantage of school-based programs that can help students keep up their academic skills during the summer. But there are still ways that parents and other caregivers can stave off summer loss that do not involve school.
Here are six:
1. Model what you want to see: First and foremost, never forget that you are a role model. Children will do what they see the adults around them do. Summer is the perfect time for you to reduce screen time and increase time reading, writing, taking walks, playing games or having conversations.
2. Visit the library: Children love independence. One of the best ways to allow children to demonstrate independence is to have them browse the shelves of the local library and select books that they can read independently or for you to read aloud to them. Participate in story hours if your local library offers the activity. Establish a habit of visiting the library on a weekly basis or at least several times a month. These library visits will strengthen a child’s reading skills.
3. Play games during trips: When traveling by car, bus or train, there are games – both word and number – that you can engage in with your children. For instance, you can play “I Spy with My Little Eye,” estimate the number of fast-food restaurants you’ll pass or even look for all the words that begin with a certain letter. These activities not only keep children engaged but also incrementally sharpen their skills in a wide range of academic areas such as literacy, numeracy and communication.
4. Encourage your children to keep a summer journal: To get them started, suggest one journal entry of “10 Things I Want to Do Before Summer is Over.” The list can include activities like watching the sunrise, going an entire day without wearing shoes or seeing how far they can spit a watermelon seed. To make the journal more interesting, encourage children to fill it with both writing and drawing.
5. Visit landmarks: Plan visits to acquaint you and your children with local landmarks. Document the visit with a journal entry, drawings or photographs and some research on the history of the site. The excursions can become even more meaningful if you have children do a little research into the landmarks you visit.
6. Plan weekly family picnics: Vary the meals to include breakfast, lunch, dinner or even dessert. Let your children plan the menu and cook with you, as well as select the site for the picnics. Research has found that involving children in the preparation of meals by doing things such as making grocery lists can help improve their reading, writing and math skills.
Suzanne McLeod Binghamton University, State University of New York/The Conversation