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Develop learning activities that are fun to counteract 'summer slide'

Develop learning activities that are fun to counteract 'summer slide'

In her last email before summer break, Summit Country Day Lower School Director Kendra Thornton recommended to her parents that they find fun ways to keep learning fresh with their children.

Many academic studies show that a “summer slide” in learning has an adverse affect on kids’ performance when they return to school for the next year. This isn’t news to teachers. William F. White, a New York math teacher, tested fourth graders on math facts before and after summer vacation in 1906. His finding: the number of right answers fell by 26 percent.

A major study conducted in 1996 at the University of Missouri showed that students lose about a month of academic learning each summer.

“It is important to nurture all facets of our children, not just their academics, and summer break offers a great opportunity to have unstructured days filled with free play and imagination,” Dr. Thornton says. “However, there are many simple ways to help children retain what they have learned during the school year, introduce them to new ideas and support healthy emotional family bonds.”

Among the tips Dr. Thornton referenced in a Little Scholars newsletter, were:

  • Read every day.
  • Cook with children.
  • Help children plant a garden.
  • Take field trips to museums, zoos and parks.
  • Learn new words.
  • Attend a summer camp.

 Scholastic stresses the importance of reading aloud. When parents or older children read aloud books that younger children cannot read, they are helping the younger children build listening comprehension skills and increasing their overall knowledge.

Research conducted at Johns Hopkins University supports the notion of continuing education in the summer at schools and camps. Indeed, many schools like The Summit provide opportunities for summer learning at classes and camps. At The Summit's, students can code robots, create comic books, learn video production, design hovercrafts, study CSI-style forensic chemistry or develop survivor skills “Our mantra is, ‘We put the fun in summer!'” says Summit’s Auxiliary Services Coordinator Lisa Nicholson.

Exploring local learning resources is another big tip. A recent story in the Columbus Dispatch pointed to a number of educational opportunities available in Ohio’s state capital.

Even best-selling author James Patterson offers tips on combatting summer slide based on his years as a father and writer. According to the Washington Post, Patterson has donated $1.75 million to libraries around the country. “Convince these kids to read more for fun,” he told The Post. “So much reading they’re forced to do is just tedious. That’s not the way, especially with little kids, to get them to read. It should be more of a joyful experience. In the summer, read whatever you want.”


Nancy BerlierAbout the author

Nancy Berlier is Communications Director at The Summit Country Day School. She is a former education writer at The Cincinnati Post and education editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer.