Summer vacation is the highlight of most kids’ year – the time when they get to sleep over at friends’ houses, hang out at the pool and make memories for a lifetime. It’s important, however, to keep your child mentally stimulated this summer to prevent a serious risk to their education: summer learning loss.
What is summer learning loss?
Learning loss is a phenomenon in which children lose vital academic information from the previous school year during an extended break, resulting in them falling behind in the classroom and starting the next school year unprepared. According to the National Summer Learning Association, students can digress two to three months in their academic skills during vacation, especially in the fields of mathematics, spelling and reading comprehension.
Learning loss can be particularly detrimental for young students because it puts them behind in their reading skills. From kindergarten through third grade, children are generally learning to read. From fourth grade on, they have developed their reading skills and are now reading to learn. Studies show that if students are not at reading level by fourth grade, they are four times more likely to leave high school without their diploma.
How your kids can continue learning
With a few simple activities, parents can keep their children’s minds stimulated so that they not only avoid learning loss, but also enter the next school year more prepared than ever.
The most important step is to make time for learning in your schedule and your child’s schedule. You don’t need to build a set curriculum; instead, turn relevant, day-to-day activities into lessons. For example, ask your child to help with the measurements if you’re baking, or read the morning paper together and use the news to talk about important topics.
If your child is interested in a specific topic – whether it’s marine animals, rocket ships or a series of books – encourage it. Fun, educational activities like visiting a zoo or conducting at-home science experiments can motivate children to keep learning. Since reading is one of the most important skills students need to keep working on, go to the library or book store with your child and see if you can find an interesting book to read.
Another great way to encourage your child’s interests is through summer camp. Whether it’s a specialized camp or a longer program, your child can keep learning while also interacting with peers. Many camps plan activities around school curriculum to keep important topics front of mind. Communities in Schools of Jacksonville has provided academically enriched summer camps for struggling students for more than 15 years, with certified teachers encouraging campers to engage in STEM subjects and improve their literacy.
Summer learning loss can affect most children, but it’s easy to prevent by keeping them engaged and creative. Children inherently want to learn more – that’s why they are always asking “why.” Give your child the right tools and encouragement, and they will succeed.
Dane Gilbert is the director of case management at Communities in Schools of Jacksonville (CIS) and previously worked in public schools as a teacher and principal. For more information on Gilbert and his work, visit CISJax.org.