A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Keep school skills sharp during summer break

Two boys reading outside on a summer day - Keeping up school skills during the summer

Summer learning should include 20 minutes of reading each day to help kids retain skills learned during the school year.

School’s out for summer, but that doesn’t mean kids should get a complete break from learning. Especially considering the amount of time missed in school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Look at summer as an enrichment time for kids,” said Dr. Nicole Giles, a pediatrician with Marshfield Children’s. “Look for ways to make learning fun.”

Besides keeping kids occupied, fun and enriching activities will help them retain what they learned during the school year, she said.

Summer slide is real

It’s well documented that kids who don’t get educational enrichment in the summer fall behind in reading and math. The “summer slide,” as it’s called, can set kids back two months in reading and math. Many kids don’t get those skills back.

Summer slide has the greatest effect on children from low-income families who can’t afford camps or summer learning programs. By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students three years behind their classmates. Researchers credit about half the academic achievement gap between lower and higher income students to the summer slide, according to a New York Times article.

“This gap also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic where many schools relied on virtual learning, which was in general better for higher income students,” Dr. Giles said.

Keep reading, maintain math

Reading is one of the easiest ways to keep kids’ minds active in the summer. Join a summer reading challenge at the local library to encourage kids to read more books.

“Let your kids pick fun books they’ll love to read,” Dr. Giles said. “Try to read for 20 minutes a day.”

You don’t have to stick to books to get kids reading. Look at the weather forecast or read the comic section in the newspaper together.

Keep reading out loud even if your kids can read independently to build their listening comprehension skills.

Maintain math skills by doing a few problems each day and find ways to use math in daily life at grocery stores and restaurants. Ask your child’s teacher about good sources for grade level-appropriate math problems.

Look for non-traditional learning opportunities

There are many chances to combine learning and summer fun.

“If you have a vacation planned, ask your kids to look at maps and guidebooks to find activities and places to explore,” Dr. Giles said

Have kids keep a journal of their experiences or write letters or emails to friends to keep writing skills sharp.

Choose recipes to make, then measure ingredients and cook them together.

Find affordable summer learning programs

Summer learning doesn’t have to take place in a classroom setting. Camps and programs in which children explore nature and perform science experiments encourage learning.

Some local school districts, public libraries and non-profit organizations that serve children offer free or low-cost summer learning programs. Tuition assistance for fee-based programs may be available to qualified families.

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