With summer fast approaching, now is the time for parents to start planning ways to keep their children’s minds and bodies active during their vacation months.
Why? Over 100 years (yes, one hundred) of research has documented the occurrence of “summer learning loss,” a loss in academic skills and knowledge during the summer months that sets students back academically if they are not engaged in meaningful formal or informal summer learning and enrichment activities.
It’s also well-documented that summer learning loss, which is cumulative over time, contributes directly to a widening of the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students, and that a lack of summer learning opportunities also contributes to increased student drop-out rates.
Moreover, children who don’t take part in summer learning programs disproportionately gain weight in summer because they lack access to the recreational and meal programs available during the school year and spend more time watching TV and being sedentary, thus increasing their risk of childhood obesity.
That’s the bad news about why summer matters. The good news is there are some simple, effective and affordable ways for parents to prevent summer learning loss and engage their children in meaningful summertime learning activities that cost nothing (or next to nothing) and will help keep them mentally and physically fit, and ready to start the new school year with success.
While summer camps and formal summer learning programs certainly offer opportunities for enriching activities, there are also plenty of effective, and cost-effective, ways to support your child’s summertime learning. Here are four simple DIY ways to get started.
TALK to your child’s teacher before the end of the school year. Teachers will have good ideas about workbooks, activities and even online resources that children can do to maintain their skills over the summer.
READ to, and with, your kids. Take advantage of your local public library and their summer reading programs. You’ll get all the books you want for free and your kids will enjoy a field trip that’s likely to help instill a love of reading.
TURN everyday activities into learning opportunities. For example, take your kids on a shopping trip and challenge them to add up prices at the store and see if they can tally up the final bill. Going on a drive? Ask them to look out for certain shapes, colors, letters or words on billboards and signs.
ESCAPE the TV, couch and fridge by getting out and about for neighborhood walks and outings to local parks, playgrounds, zoos, community centers and other local resources that are enjoyable, educational and keep everyone moving.
Try these activities, plus some more of your own, and you’ll see firsthand why summer matters to your child’s mental and physical health and well-being, and how a little enrichment can make a big difference.
Jennifer Peck (www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-peck) was a founding staff member of the Partnership for Children and Youth (www.partnerforchildren.org) in 2001 and became its executive director in 2003. Since then, she has lead initiatives to finance and build after-school and summer-learning programs, and increase access to school meals and nutrition education programs in the Bay Area’s lowest-income communities. Under her leadership, the Partnership has brought more than $70 million in public funding to schools and their community partners, enabling thousands of low-income children to participate in these programs, and has played an influential role in policy-development and advocacy to improve the effectiveness of public funding for youth programs in low-income communities across California.
In December 2010, Jennifer was appointed Senior Policy Advisor and Transition Team Director for Tom Torlakson, the newly-elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Prior to joining the Partnership, Jennifer spent eight years as an appointee of President Bill Clinton at the U.S. Department of Education, where she supported implementation of numerous initiatives including student loan reform, School-to-Work, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Under Jennifer’s leadership, the Partnership is spearheading “Summer Matters” – a collaborative effort to expand and improve summer learning. Learn more at www.summermatters2you.net