The school year is winding down, and as we prepare for summer break, there are two words that loom large and unwelcome: summer slide. Routine is key to a well-rounded education, and months without that routine take their toll. When students do not have a strict academic schedule, performance and retention slip.
What is the summer slide?
The summer slide describes the circumstance in which children lose knowledge in reading and math during the summer months, which results in continued loss throughout the ensuing years. This is most evident in the early years of learning – typically from kindergarten through third grade – as children are still developing and building the fundamental skills necessary for higher education.
And while the summer slide is a phenomenon that seems to begin in kindergarten, that doesn’t mean parents of our littlest learners should be complacent. Comprehension begins to build as soon as children develop language, and language grows with regular interaction. Promoting healthy reading habits from birth shapes not only a love of reading, but a strong educational foundation.
How can students avoid the summer slide?
It bears repeating: routine is key. Studies show that it takes just 2 to 3 hours per week to prevent summer learning loss. That still leaves plenty of time for little ones to enjoy their break, go to camps, and spend time with friends. Scheduling academic activities among summer fun helps children keep up with the skills they’ve learned in school. Incorporating workbooks, independent or shared reading, and even meaningful conversations is all it takes. Keeping up with learning also prevents the need for the review of these skills when kids return to school. The start of the school year often focuses on review, as opposed to introducing new ideas and skills. When students spend summer time wisely, they can advance more quickly in new areas.
What are some activities for parents to include in daily learning?
The most important activity, as always, is to read. It sounds simple – and it is! Just by incorporating time for stories and imaginative thinking into your child’s daily routine, you are helping them to build an abundance of skills. Reading helps with vocabulary expansion, critical thinking, making predictions and thinking ahead, and builds imaginations and empathy to boot. Some fun ways to take reading to the next step includes:
- Form a book club with your little one and their friends. Let them pick the book, add some comprehension activities, and read a new chapter with them weekly.
- Choose from a new genre. If your child has never opened a graphic novel, encourage them to try! Listen to audiobooks before bed. Flip through a new chapter book together. Make sure to ask questions along the way to both gauge their interest and build their comprehension.
- Make it a challenge. Ask if they want to try to read 25 books this summer. Then 50. Then 100. Challenge them and encourage them every step of the way until the routine of reading is intrinsic to each and every day.
And as you’re reading, find fun ways to involve writing too. Writing is a difficult skill, which often makes it difficult for kids to enjoy. But there are plenty of ways to make writing something your child looks forward to.
- Begin a journal with them. Let them decorate the cover however they’d like. Give different prompts each day for them to follow. Make sure it’s always at the same time of day, so they start to look forward to those moments and keep up with it.
- Write a story together. Pick different characters, settings, and plot points out of a basket and build a world from nothing. This will not only involve your child in the act of writing, but also build their imagination and ability to fully craft a piece.
- Write a letter to a family member you haven’t seen in a while. Teach your child the proper format – salutations included – and prompt them with questions or ideas.
- Use different writing utensils. Go outside and write on the sidewalk with chalk. Write on glass with Expo markers or window paint. Paint a chalkboard wall and ask them questions to write the answers to. The possibilities are endless!
Though the summer slide can feel daunting, it is no match for the excitement and possibility that summer learning can bring.