Summer Learning Loss is Real – Protecting Your Child

All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Specifically, research concludes:

On average, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months, regardless of socioeconomic status (Dr. Harris Cooper, Duke University).

Summer learning loss is cumulative – by the end of fifth grade students who did not read during the summer were behind their peers by two years, on average. And summer learning loss contributes to the problem of achievement gap not only in elementary school years but also through middle school and into high school (Dr. Karl Alexander, Dr. Doris Entwisle, Linda Steffel Olson, Johns Hopkins University).

So the message is that you must be proactive to protect your child from potential learning loss. With a little planning by the end of May, you can ensure your child keeps what they’ve learned in the past school year. A typical summer plan would include the following elements:

Ensure your child reads every day – select 4 to 5 books to read over the summer and have them read a certain number of pages each day. And you can mix in some age-appropriate magazines. Be sure to let your child be involved in the selection of reading materials. As an incentive, allow your kids to stay up a half hour later at night as long as they’re reading. And don’t forget, your local library is a great free resource!

Use math skills every day – every day activities provide opportunities to do this. For example, ask your kids to make change at the store or drive-thru. Or practice addition, subtraction or multiplication skills shooting basketball hoops but changing the number of points each basket is worth (you can do this with soccer or any game). You can make up a couple of math word problems in the car or at the dinner table. And online resources such as provide study cards, practice tests and games across all kinds of math topics and problems.

Write every week – it can be a letter to a grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin or friend. They can write a few letters to people them admire, such as a politician, sports star or other celebrity. A daily journal describing what they did each day can also help to keep their skills honed. You can even have them add items to the family’s weekly grocery list.

Make sure they get outside and play – research has shown that physical activity has positive effects on academic achievement, including increased concentration; improved mathematics, reading, and writing test scores; and reduced disruptive behavior (Journal of School Health, 1997). Have your child walk the neighbor’s dog, go swimming, play badminton or soccer, take walks with the family or go on family bike rides. Look for safe, fun ways to play outside.

Plan some special activities – this can be summer camps, vacation bible schools, trips to museums, parks, and libraries.

To succeed in school and life, our children need us to provide (or have access to) ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months. Many of us view summer as a carefree, happy time when “kids can be kids”, but don’t hurt your kids’ future – protect them against summer learning loss.

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