The Summer Slide

What is Summer Slide?  Maybe us parents are thinking about summer nights at the pool, beach or playground, but educators and researchers are referring to Summer Learning Loss, which commonly happens over the summer vacation. Unfortunately, research shows that kids forget what they learn during the school year, over the summer months. Studies show that ALL students lose some math skills, but when it comes to reading, poor and minority students fall behind their middle-class and more affluent peers.

So I thought about the saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” It certainly would make sense to me that young, growing brains would be more susceptible to this happening.  Summer learning loss is also especially concerning for elementary children because these years are the most crucial in creating a foundation for life-long learning. In fact, studies also show that if a child is not reading on grade level by the third grade, that the overall outcome and even graduation rates are impacted.

During the school year we all become dependent on the school system to be the main delivery system of education for our children. During the summer this “faucet” is turned off. Summer brings a drought of available resources and learning opportunities and parents have to reach out to their libraries, summer camps and even tutoring or summer learning programs.  There are also other contributing factors—the lack of available and affordable summer learning programs and family and parental enrichment opportunities—intensify the lack of school-provided resources during the summer months. Most summer programs are simply unaffordable for low-income families. So what can us parents do if we don’t have the financial ability to provide tutoring or expensive computer programs or workbooks ? I asked myself this very question.

It’s July. I’ve had more than a few great days at the beach. The kids are winding down from the camp routine. The kids are even missing school and most certainly their friends. I decided it was time to “kick it up.”  I began reflecting on what a parent as teacher, means.

Remember when our kids were young? Every moment seemed like a perfect teaching opportunity.   What color is that car? How many rocks can you pick up? So how can we supplement and reinforce what our children learned in the classroom this year?  I can share with you a few ideas I’ve been trying in our house.

We are recycling some of my older daughters workbooks for my younger one. We downloaded a few apps for free.  I was recently on a business trip and had to give an expense report. I gave my daughter the receipts, she added them up, categorized them and we double checked her results on the calculator. I poked around the Sliney School website and found this great page with lots of resources and links to academic sites and games.

Branford is also lucky to have, what I think, are the finest libraries around.   The Blackstone library is running “Dream Big, Read!” a very exciting program that has kids returning to the library weekly and earning prizes (such as a free ride on the Trolley) and raffle tickets. And many kids have already participated in Branford Reads, sponsored by the Branford Education Foundation.

In our house we’ve got the reading lists that came home with the kids from school. They are hung up in a prominent space and I give constant reminders to accurately track their accomplishments. Got a competitive family? Start your own “Smith” Family Reading Challenge. Offer your own rewards for completing goals, large or small. And they don’t have to be tangible awards like the junk our kids collect from the Dollar Store or candy. How about a walk around the block alone with Dad? Or a special sleepover at Gramma’s house? Or even one family game night a week.  Supporting a child to embrace and love learning, will be the best gift of all!

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