Preventing Summer Learning Loss

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End of Grade testing and final exams have started and soon school will be out for the summer! Summer break from school is a time-honored tradition for most American children and their families, but decades of research is showing that a two to three-month break from learning is having a significant impact on our children’s educational experience. Recent studies show that the average “summer learning loss” in math and reading for the average American child is between one and two months per year and the effect tends to be cumulative, so by the time they reach high school they have lost an entire academic year of knowledge.

But, just because kids have a break from school doesn’t mean they have to have a break from learning. Research has also shown that keeping children engaged mentally and involved in experiential or hands-on, skill-building activities can slow and even reverse summer learning loss. When summer enrichment programs and activities promote skill building and reinforce what they learn in school, kids have less chance to forget what they learned in the classroom and you don’t have to accept academic backsliding as a fact of life.

Whether your child loves to read, play sports, or create and build projects there are many fun and effective and low-cost ways to promote learning and combat summer learning loss:

  •      Reading really is fundamental. Research has shown that children who participate in summer reading activities are 50% less likely to lose ground in reading comprehension. So, read to your child, have your child read to you, visit the library, or participate in a school, library or corporate summer reading program.
  •      4-H Day Camps and other youth development programs provide opportunities for expanded learning through experiential (hands-on) engagement that encourages academic growth. They also help children develop emotionally and socially as they make new friends and learn to work collaboratively. They provide opportunities to create, play, explore and learn in new ways, and in most cases, camp is so fun that kids don’t realize how much they have learned. Local day camp programs are relatively inexpensive and provide your child with opportunities to pursue their interests and passions, keep their brain engaged and learn in new and exciting environments.
  •      Plant a Garden. Gardening provides for some amazing developmental benefits for children of all ages. It introduces (or reinforces) science skills and concepts like plant needs and life cycles, and provides for many teachable math moments: counting seeds, measuring soil depth and plant growth, and even geometric patterns and shapes. Planting a vegetable garden with your children also promotes healthy eating habits as research shows that children are 82% more likely to eat, or try vegetables that they have grown and harvested themselves. A backyard garden also supports the development of patience, nurturing, planning and organization skills, and fosters family bonding and togetherness.
  •      Visit local Art, Science & History Museums. Visiting museums with your children is a shared journey of exploration. Many museums have interactive, kid’s friendly displays and exhibits that allow you and your child to actively engage in new experiences. Museums can provide for new worlds of interest, reinforce lessons learned in books and school, and connect your child to the world around them.

These are just a few of the countless ways to engage your kids in enrichment activities that keep their minds and bodies sharp and at work. You could also play board games that exercise skills in strategy, visit parks and wildlife reserves, and in today’s technology-driven world you can visit China and Antarctica without leaving the comforts of home. The bottom line is that the summer can be filled with enriching activities and experiences that allow your child to learn independently in a relaxed environment, and that lessen or prevent summer learning loss.

4-H is North Carolina’s largest youth development organization, equipping more than 247,000 young people each year with the skills to succeed and improve the world around them. 4-H programs and camps encourage young people to “learn by doing,” helping them to develop into active, contributing citizens. NC State Extension and the Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University coordinate 4-H programs statewide.

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