Flash forward to cooler temperatures when you’re just now finishing up back to school shopping after a long vacation. Every parent hopes that their child can’t wait to start learning again, but when they look at you with a lost look in their eyes and they say they aren’t ready to go back, your stomach can’t help but drop a little. Despite all the fun and relaxation, it becomes clear that the infamous “summer slide” has struck again.
Summer learning loss, also called the “summer slide” or “summer setback,” refers to the loss of academic ability and cognitive function that takes place over the summer vacation period. Some students are able to catch back up quickly during the first few review weeks, but for others, the loss is too significant to brush off, resulting in a noticeable lag behind peers. A study led by Duke University researcher Harris Cooper concluded that most students will lose about 1 month of math progress while other studies have estimated this number is closer to 2.5 full months. Similarly, research shows that about 2 months of reading comprehension ability is lost over vacation. Due to the lack of summer enrichment opportunities available to low-socioeconomic status students, the loss is usually steeper, with the compounded effect of lackluster summers resulting in a full 3-year gap in reading levels compared to their wealthier peers by the beginning of high school!
So, how do we prevent the “summer slide?”
At first glance, this may seem like an easy question. Just like sports or an instrument, reading comprehension and math must be practiced if a student wants to improve or maintain the skills. The slide is like deciding to skip out on the gym for three months. You can’t expect to return and immediately pick up the same weights and train at the same intensity as before your break. Luckily, there are many routes to keep your brain active over summer and avoid significant learning regression. One way to ensure your child stays ahead is to participate in one or more types of summer enrichment opportunities, such as summer camps or tailored academic programs. However, with an average weekly cost of $288 per child, these programs remain out of reach for many families. So, the question holds, how does one prevent the “summer slide” without having to spend lots of money?
Practice makes perfect
The good news is your child doesn’t need an expensive summer enrichment program in order to prevent learning loss. Here are a few easy and cost-effective ways to curb the “summer slide”:
Set a goal. Talk to your child about how many books they should read over the summer and make a plan to get there. Research has shown that reading just six books over the summer can help combat the “summer slide” for reading comprehension. Try choosing some books that are a challenge, but allow your child to read things they will find interesting.
Read aloud. Don’t underestimate storytime! Children of all ages, even teenagers, can benefit from listening to books read aloud. Ask your children questions about the motivation of the characters and their favorite parts, or have them retell the story in their own words. In addition, parents can read literature that slightly exceeds their child’s reading level and in turn, improve their comprehension.
Stealth learning. The best way to prevent the “summer slide” is to never allow it to happen. Although this might not sound enjoyable, there are ways to incorporate education into fun activities through a process called stealth learning, or “hiding” education into activities that won’t look like schoolwork. For example, taking your child to the new sci-fi movie, and afterwards researching some aspects of space exploration or physics is a great way to allow them to have fun while also exercising their brain! Keeping reading and math a part of daily life over the summer will ensure your child won’t lose what they learned. Instead, they might even get ahead of their friends!
Use “no sun” hours in creative ways. When it gets too hot to be outside, consider using this time to exercise your child’s mind by building something out of recycled materials or Legos. Alternatively, cooking meals with your child can encourage them to think creatively about math and reading. It can also be as simple as printing out some math problems and seeing who can finish them fastest with a small reward for the top score. You can even use NeuroPlus to build upon the skills of focus, impulse control, and calmness, all of which can help your student in the classroom when they go back to school.
There is no secret method to preventing the “summer slide.” All it takes is a conscious effort to keep your child’s brain active. This summer, don’t let the spell of vacation take away from all the work your child has done over the past nine months. Go down to the local library or bookstore and stock up on reading material, because although the waterslide at the pool might be fun, the “summer slide” is not.
What are some other ideas you have for combating summer learning loss? How do you incorporate learning into your child’s daily routine?