It’s that time of year again. The time of year students began counting down to since September; the time of year parents often dread.
However, summer vacation has also proven to be a critical time for teachers and educators as well, as it is a time when a substantial amount of learning loss can occur for a child.
Studies have shown that on average, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months. These figures are compounded for low-income students, as they can also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their middle-class peers actually make gains.
In fact, studies have shown that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
Fortunately, many places offer a wealth of programs, and provide help for parents trying to keep their child learning throughout the summer months.
First and foremost, if a child is struggling in school and doing poorly in math and reading, the first option should be summer school.
Most schools offer a summer program, and it may be the only way for some children not to lose critical skills over the summer months. Summer school does not usually go the full day and normally focuses on specific areas of learning like math and reading.
If the child isn’t really struggling in these areas, then a lighter approach may be taken with summer reading lists, activity programs and what not.
James Kim, assistant professor of education at Harvard University, explains, however, that just giving a student access to a list of books to read won’t necessarily have the child reading more.
Kim explains that the list needs to be tailored to the students interests and needs.
“We’ve learned that if you’re trying to improve children’s reading abilities, you have to provide books that match the child’s reading level and interest and you have to know how to monitor comprehension,” Kim said in an interview with the National Summer Learning Association.
He continued explaining that parents need to be more involved in the process, especially for younger children in early grades.
Summer learning programs can be crucial to keeping a child on track in school, however, many times these programs still might not have enough of an effect if parental involvement is at a minimum.
“Our research indicates that it’s about more than access, especially with younger kids who are still learning to read,” Kim said in the interview. “Reading is most effective when parents or family members can provide reading guidance and make sure that kids understand what they’re reading. Reading can be both a solitary activity and a social activity that fosters learning and recreation.”
Parents must be involved if a child is to maintain his or her education over the summer. It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe even just an hour or two per day.