The “summer slide” describes the decline in academic skills and knowledge that affects students during the extended summer break. This “summer slide” varies across grade levels, subject matter and socioeconomic status. On average, students lose the equivalent of two months of reading and math skills over the summer. With a little planning parents and community members can provide children summer learning opportunities that will help build the best foundation for the start of the next school year.
We’ve heard it so often, that we may take it for granted, but the best way to keep kids from losing reading skills over the summer is to keep books in their hands. Engage children in books that interest them. Schools often include a recommended summer reading list in students’ fourth quarter report cards, but if you need more age-appropriate suggestions Scholastic has comprised this list of books by grade-level for infants to grade 12. Scholastic also has a Summer Reading Challenge that parents and students can enroll in online and local libraries offer free summer reading programs. Library programs also offer book lists based on age and small incentives for completing steps in the program. Praise children each time they complete a book, and take time to discuss what they have read.
Encourage children to keep a daily journal describing activities. This keeps writing skills sharp and will be a keepsake of their summer. If your child can’t be moved to write on a daily basis, consider a vacation or travel journal.
Giving children time to color, paint, draw and work on arts and crafts keeps their minds engaged, uses imagination and sparks creativity. There are a variety of free resources available for ideas. Kids.gov offers a variety of ideas in art and music for students in grades K-8. NGA Kids offers a wide variety of online art activities for students of all ages, as well as virtual gallery tours.
Get directions online or at the library for activities like cooking or building bird feeders. Home Depot offers free weekly workshops for kids of all age and ability levels.
Stay Active, Eat Healthy
When out of school for the summer, children run an increased risk of weight gain. Take advantage of warmer weather and encourage children to be active outdoors. Allow children to learn how to make beneficial decisions about their diets and exercise through these free sites: KidsHealth.org, Let's Move! offers ideas to get children and families physically active together, Kids.Gov offers children more information on exercise and healthy eating. Mom.me describes backyard games that are fun for the whole family and gives a brief description and the gear involved. It includes classic games like badminton, bocce ball, corn hole and more.
The USDA Summer Food Program is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides free meals to all children 18 years old and under in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Explore Your Environment
Trips to neighborhood parks, woods, or state and national parks offer students the opportunity to learn more about plant and wildlife. Students enjoy using field guides to help them identify birds, butterflies, plants and trees. The National Park Service offers the Junior Ranger Program which features booklets, coloring pages, and daily park activities children can complete at parks to earn Junior Ranger badges.
Enrich their Education
Many museums offer days of the week with free or reduced admission. Take advantage of these deals, and take children to visit art, history, and natural history or science museums. Museums often have floors and exhibits geared specifically for students in grades K-8, with activities and guides geared towards these age groups. Take advantage of local zoos, science centers and aquariums.
Summer is also a great time for children to try classes in areas that interest them, such as dance, gymnastics, karate, music, and art. Many times the first class is offered at a free or reduced rate.
Summer Learning Day Event
The National Summer Learning Association provides this free Summer Learning Day Event Map, which lists summer learning programs that allow your students to interact with others while learning. From summer learning challenges to reading days and educational camps, you can find educational opportunities for kids of all ages almost anywhere in the country.
Middle school and high school students can stay active in the community during the summer by volunteering for a local organization. Volunteering helps students develop leadership and job skills, exposes them to potential career opportunities, and helps them make professional connections within their community.