How To Avoid The Dreadful Summer Slide…
~Dr. Evans & Principal Evans
Students who are not intentionally engaged in reading, math, science and writing, over the summer lose academic footing, fall behind, and over time become less likely to graduate from high school or go on to college. This statement seems rather drastic, but it’s nothing drastic about the fact that summer learning loss is real. This learning loss is referred to by many researchers as a “summer slide’. Students who experience summer slide, over time can lose more and more confidence in school, become disengaged, and ultimately become more likely to identify as at-risk for dropping out of school or not moving on to higher education opportunities after High School. This is not a dramatic statement, it is a factual statement that our community must be aware of in order to change the trajectory of the lives of children in our households and our families. By the fifth grade, cumulative years of summer learning loss can leave lower-income students up to three years behind their peers. And more than half of the achievement gap accumulated by ninth grade is attributed to summer learning loss.
Over 100 years ago a researcher named W. White found that when students are out of school for prolonged periods of time, such as summer vacation and not engaged in academic structure or life learning opportunities, they are likely to lose ground. It’s like having a faucet running in a student’s life for 10 months straight and then turning off the faucet abruptly and expecting the student to remain hydrated. The opposite effect is that students whose parents can afford to take them to museums, pay for camps, send them on field experiences or provide travel opportunities for them during this same amount of time can actually supplement for the fact that the faucet was turned off. These students actually tend to gain knowledge and return to school with better footing than their peers who do not have these opportunities afforded to them.
Here’s the real deal…
Most schools still follow a traditional calendar: school meets from September to June and a long summer vacation follows. This model was developed for the agrarian society of the past when students helped on the family farm and were needed at home during those times because they were the busiest of the year. The truth is, economic needs rather than educational needs is what really dictated the school year. You would think that we would have revisited this calendar within the last 200 years, but we have not. Most schools still follow this calendar even though research has shown that summer slide is an educational crisis. I recognize that schools are at a crossroads. Emotions always run high when changes to school calendars are proposed. Students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers all have their own concerns and are affected in different ways.
- Some students fear loss of time for jobs, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
- Parents fear disruption of family time and family traditions.
- Teachers are concerned about additional hours or days and disruption that might be caused to their own families and educational opportunities. Teachers are also aware that change requires time to learn new methods and plan in new ways.
- Taxpayers are concerned with the costs of extended days and years. Money for transportation and labor contracts would increase.
As a former teacher and as a current Principal I understand the need for a break for both students and staff. I am a supporter of periodic breaks but feel that our parents and community must be aware of how to combat summer loss while their children are on break.
How Does This Affect Your Child?
This year the Philadelphia School District’s last day of school was June 4th and the return date of students is scheduled for September 3rd. This calendar provides a full 3-month summer vacation for students. As discussed earlier, children who come from higher-income households, travel throughout the summer, have life lesson opportunities provide for them, read consistently, attend camp and have the chance to relish in new experiences. The students just mentioned will be fine in September when they return to school, but the question is, what happens to our children who do not have these opportunities and what can we do about summer learning loss?
Ways to Combat Summer Slide in Your Child
The data presented is the ugly truth, but “summer slide” is preventable. Let’s all agree to take simple steps daily to prevent our students from losing their academic footing!
Here are Ten things you can do to help your child avoid summer slide.
- Ensure your child reads EVERY day! They should be reading non-fiction, fiction, eBooks, poetry, or newspapers on a daily basis. They should also read out loud to you as you listen to their fluency and ask them questions to check their understanding and comprehension! For most children, twenty minutes is an appropriate amount of time to read for a child who is an independent reader.
- Most libraries have a wonderful summer reading program with incentives and rewards for books read over the summer. Find your nearest library, make sure your child has a library card, make time for them to visit the library at least 1-2 days a week for an hour and allow your child to choose books that interest them.
- Cook with your children. This is one of the best ways to integrate math, reading and following directions. Let your child design the menu too! Help your child put together their favorite recipes in a cookbook.
- Have your child volunteer with one of your friends or family members at their place of employment. Volunteer opportunities open doors for children when you least expect it. It also gives them an opportunity to continuously learn new skills and use their brains over the summer. Think about the value volunteering at a local veterinarian clinic, business office, or summer camp can provide for your child.
- Take learning everywhere you go! Take a field trip to a museum, zoo or local park with walking trails. Have your children keep journals to log their experiences throughout the summer.
- Learn a new word each week! Hang it on the fridge and see who can use it the most times throughout the week.
- Enroll in a quality summer camp/program that will provide your child with opportunities to build their critical thinking skills.
- Play quick games with your children such as a flashcard game like Math War or Concentration to keep math skills sharp.
- Have your child listen to Audio Books during long car rides and road trips.
- Did I mention READ?! If your child does nothing else this summer make sure he/she is reading!
Let’s all agree to ensure our children do not lose footing this summer by making reading a priority and ensuring we provide learning opportunities for our children in all experiences we provide them throughout the summer. It’s not hard it just has to be intentional.
Below is a recommended summer reading list. Choose a few of these books for your child or someone else’s child to serve as their summer reading and watch their eyes light up, their brains start to turn and the idea of summer loss be dispelled in your home and ultimately in our community. Just click the links below and it will redirect you to Amazon where you will be able to purchase some of the recommendations for a child.
1. Power Forward by Hena Kahn (3–6)
2. Polly Diamond and the Magic Book: Book 1 by Alice Kuipers (1–3)
3. Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant (1–3)
4. Big Bunny by Rowboat Watkins (PreK–2)
5. Take a Hike, Miles and Spike! by Travis Foster (PreK–2)
6. Floaty by John Himmelman (PreK–2)
7. Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce (2–4)
8. Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future by Mairghread Scott (4–8)
9. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (4–8)
10. A Drop of Hope by Keith Calabrese
11. That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
12. Gamer Army by Trent Reedy
13. Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds
14. HALO: Battle Born by Cassandra Rose Clarke
15. Amulet: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi
16. Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk
17. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Kroscozka
18. The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
19. Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond: Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta
20. Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs (4–6)