Help your Child Avoid Summer Learning Loss

Summer is upon us, and while your child may be anticipating carefree days of staying up late, sleeping in, watching hours of TV and, in general, avoiding all things academic, there are many good reasons why you should make it your goal to be sure your child’s reading, writing and math skills don’t go dormant for the months of June, July and August.

According to the Reading Is Fundamental website, “all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.”

In fact, research has shown that students given a standardized test at the end of the summer typically score lower than they do on the same test taken at the beginning of the summer (Cooper, 1996). This is a phenomenon that is widely observed by teachers in the fall and requires school to begin the year with several weeks of review.

Students lose about 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills during their summer vacations. “The greatest areas of summer loss for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, are in factual or procedural knowledge (Cooper, 1996)”.

Summer loss in reading skills is of particular concern for low income students, with reading skills for children of middle and high socioeconomic status generally showing slight gains, and a loss of two months experienced by lower socioeconomic children after the summer months, contributing to the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth (Cooper, 1996).

What can parents do to help their children avoid this summer learning loss?

If your child was invited to attend summer school through your local school district, please accept the invitation.

Children need to practice reading to get better at it, much as they must practice a musical instrument or the skills required in a sport to excel. Schedule a reading time, and be firm about it. In an unstructured day, the time tends to slip away.

Frequent your public library. Many libraries have summer reading programs which offer incentives to reward children for their summer reading. If you are the parent of a young student, he or she may need your guidance in choosing reading materials that are at the correct reading level.

Summer is a time of swimming lessons, baseball games, soccer practice, etc. Keep a bag of books and magazines in your car for these frequent trips. Reading will make travel and waiting time go much faster for your child and will provide effective practice in reading skills.

Ask your child questions about the stories he is reading to be sure that he is developing his comprehension skills and not just spending his reading time “saying the words”. If your child is unable to answer simple questions about a story, it is either too difficult for her or she is not being a mindful reader and may need your assistance in understanding what she is reading or just in knowing that she is accountable for putting effort into her reading practice.

Read aloud to your child. You should read aloud to your sixth grader as well as your kindergartner since all children reap the benefits of listening to someone else read. In addition to providing a good example of fluent reading, your child will enjoy hearing the prose and vocabulary in a story that is above his reading level. Be sure the story is one you enjoyed in your childhood or of a subject which interests you so that your reading time together will be enjoyable for both of you.

Don’t let your child’s math skills atrophy during the summer. Your young child can identify shapes he or she sees while you are taking a walk or solve simple story number problems while riding in the car. An older child may be able to help you balance your checkbook, calculate tips in a restaurant or check to see that you have received the correct change when shopping.

Reading and math workbooks may be purchased at dollar stores, discount stores or teacher supply stores. These workbooks are normally leveled for certain grades, taking the guesswork out of which ones to buy for your child.

You might also want to consider finding a teacher, a responsible teenager or college student to tutor your child in either reading or math for the duration of the summer.

These are just a few ideas to ensure that the summer months are a time for learning instead of loss for your child.

Source: (Reading is Fundamental website citing John’s Hopkins University’s Center for Summer Learnings research)