“Summer Slide”, “Brain Drain”, whatever you want to call it, it’s not a good thing. Three months of vegging out over summer vacation can have a huge impact on children’s education. Remember, three months is ¼ of the year. We simply cannot have children not engaging their brains for ¼ of their lives. While research shows that children who struggle the most in school lose the most over the summer, even students who are quite successful academically can experience this drain.
The two primary challenges to conquering brain drain is to convince children that learning doesn’t just happen in school and that learning is appealing. Parents who read regularly and talk to their children about their reading provide great role models for their children. Children see that reading is enjoyable and valuable. Parents can encourage their children to read by setting aside a special time to read to them every day and by providing an environment that is full of reading materials; books, magazines, comic books, whatever. Children, and parents, should read for at least 20 minutes every day.
Most public libraries provide a free summer reading program. These programs are appealing to children in a couple of ways. They can help the child to set a goal for the summer and work to achieve that goal. They also generally provide incentives for children to meet their goals; perhaps a pencil, a free game of bowling or an ice cream cone from a local shop.
Another great way to read with children is through cookbooks. Cooking with children can enhance their reading skills, teach them about measurement, help with math concepts like fractions, and teach sequencing. And, if all goes well, you get to share something yummy to eat.
Nearby museums, aquariums, and zoos can be fun, educational places to visit. A lot of them will have one day a month where the admission prices are greatly reduced, making them much more affordable. Writing or drawing pictures about what you see will help to extend the learning.
There are also a variety of learning games available to help children with different types of skills. Planning a regular family game night can help children to build these skills while having fun and strengthening family relationships.
Showing children that learning is important, happens in places other than just school, and can be a lot of fun will go a long way in reducing the summer slide or perhaps even helping children progress over the summer. Please help the parents in your program understand how to keep their children’s learning going over the summer.