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Songwriters might call summer “lazy” and “endless,” but education researchers have found it’s a potential danger zone. That’s because many young people lose ground over the summer in terms of reading and other things learned in school. Educators call this “summer learning loss” or the summer slide. Children in low-income communities are especially at risk:

  • More than 80 percent of children from economically disadvantaged communities lose reading skills over the summer.
  • Students who lose reading ability over the summer rarely catch up. Over time, this can add up to the equivalent of three years of reading loss by the end of fifth grade.

Fortunately, families and communities can help turn summer into a goldmine of opportunity for learning and prevent learning loss. Researchers say one way to do this is to promote and support summer reading, visits to libraries and museums, and other enrichment opportunities. Here are some ideas for getting started:

  • Summer Learning: Why It Matters (English) - PDF | MS Word
  • Summer Learning: Why It Matters (Español) - PDF | MS Word
  • Summer Learning: Why It Matters (Français) - PDF | MS Word

Community members:

Organize local efforts to get children into libraries, science and art museums, concerts, and educational and cultural enrichment events. Community-level outreach and locally organized participation can be especially important for children in low-income families. Libraries can partner with schools to create programs that engage children and their families. Organizations can use news releases, trusted community organizations and social media to announce events and opportunities, share book lists for young readers and suggest ways to make museum visits meaningful and fun for children of all ages.

Parents and families:

There are many ways to keep children’s brains active while they’re out of school: Cooking together helps children learn to follow a recipe. Craft activities give practice in following written or oral instructions. Nature walks can spark curiosity about rocks, plants, insects and whatever else children see. (On rainy days, they can visit the National Park Service’s WebRangers site to learn about the great outdoors.) Parents of young children can do simple things to make reading part of their everyday lives.        

Elementary and middle school students:

There are many ways young people can take charge of their learning. For starters, they can go to a public library and ask a librarian to help them find books of interest at the right reading level. Librarians love to play matchmaker, helping children pursue current interests and discover new ones. Books from different cultures can expand their horizons. Some books and e-books are available in Spanish as well as English. Children can also suggest fun family activities and organize outdoor games and activities with friends. Moving around and playing games is good for young bodies and minds.     

High school students:  

Summer is the perfect time to explore personal and career interests by taking a seasonal job, completing an internship or volunteering. It’s also a good time to plan and prepare for college or other education beyond high school. First Lady Michelle Obama encourages young people to “take charge of their futures” through her Reach Higher initiative.    

Ready to dig deeper into the summer learning goldmine?

Explore these links for resources and inspiration:


Summer Learning Resources for Parents

Stopping the Summer Slide by the U.S. Department of Education http://www.ed.gov/blog/2014/03/stopping-the-summer-slide/

Summer Learning Tips for Parents by the Iowa Parent Information Resource Center  http://www.iowaparents.org/files/SAI4-11SummerLearningTips.pdf

Tips for Parents: Summer Activities by The Learning Community http://www.thelearningcommunity.us/resources-by-format/tips-for-parents/summer-activities.aspx

Three Tips for Parents to Promote Summer Learning by Brain Chase http://brainchase.com/three-tips-for-parents-to-promote-summer-learning/

Summer Learning by the Fairfax County Public Schools http://www.fcps.edu/otherlanguages/translations/PDF_FILES/publications/familyschoolpartner/sumlearn/english.pdf

Five Ideas to Encourage Learning with Young Children This Summer by NAEYC for Families http://families.naeyc.org/content/five-ideas-encourage-learning-summer

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Reading Activities and Ideas

­­­­­­­­­­­­­Engage your child in reading throughout the summer by reading to them and with them. Make use of your local library’s summer reading program, and also demonstrate a positive attitude toward reading. Remember that reading is not just for books; it includes magazines, newspapers, blogs and graphic novels. Introducing your child to a variety of reading materials demonstrates that reading is used for a variety of purposes.

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free online reading program that provides kids, educators and parents with tools to get excited about reading over the summer. http://www.scholastic.com/ups/campaigns/src-2015

Reading Is Fundamental provides a collection of resources about reading and children, including books lists, activities and articles. http://readingisfundamental.org/us/literacy-resources.htm

ReadWriteThink offers parent resources for children of all ages aimed at encouraging your child to read and write. http://www.readwritethink.org/parent-afterschool-resources/

For ideas for young children and reading visit http://families.naeyc.org/reading-writing/fall-love-reading-ten-simple-things-you-can-do-home

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Summer is an excellent time to take learning outdoors. Explore nature by going on nature walks and visiting a park. Below are some websites containing ideas for outdoor learning.

Outdoor Explorations by Reading Rockets gives examples of ways to use nature to increase vocabulary.  http://www.readingrockets.org/article/outdoor-explorations

Outdoor Activities for Children Ages 6-10 by Family Education lists over 50 ideas to make the outdoors a place to get moving and learning.  http://fun.familyeducation.com/play/outdoor-activities/33394.html  

10 Awesome Outdoor Summer Learning Ideas by MindShift provides ideas for turning the outdoors into an adventure. http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/06/08/10-awesome-outdoor-summer-learning-ideas/

50 Simple Outdoor Activities for Kids by No Time for Flash Cards offers a wide range of easy-to-do activities. http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/03/50-simple-outdoor-activities-for-kids.html

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Learning at Home

Bring summer learning alive in your own home! Activities like cooking and board games are fun and educational. The kitchen is a great place to apply math and science skills while also teaching your child about health and nutrition. Board games provide opportunities for problem solving and critical thinking. Other types of at-home activities can be planned as well that will contribute to your child’s learning. 

The Science of Cooking by the Exploratorium provides recipes and activities that help children understand the science behind food and cooking.  http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/

Cooking With Kids provides kid-friendly recipies. http://www.childrensrecipes.com/

Spatulatta is another site with recipies suitable for children. http://www.spatulatta.com/

25 Activities to Keep Kids’ Brains Active in Summer by Education World provides a list of activities that covers all subjects and grade levels. http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev073.shtml  

Experiments by Steve Spangler Science offers various fun science experiments and projects. http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments

Kids' Summer Crafts and Children’s Activities by Creative Kids at Home encourages children to use a wide variety of materials to create and explore.  http://www.creativekidsathome.com/summerkidsactivities2.html

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Museums, Community Events and Resources

Your community has all sorts of resources waiting to be used by you and your family. Use the summer to explore new museums or attend live concerts. Below are websites providing information on how to make your museum visit a great experience for your child.

7 Ways to Make an Art Museum Visit Fun for Kids by My Kids' Adventure http://www.mykidsadventures.com/art-museum-fun/

Museums and Learning: A Guide for Family Visits by the U.S. Department of Education http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/Museum/visit.html

Tips to Make the Most of Museum Visits With Young Children by Grade School Giggles http://www.gradeschoolgiggles.com/tips-to-make-the-most-of-museum-visits-with-young-children/

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Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering provides a memorable experience for children and also engages them in meaningful work. Below are two websites that provide information about projects in your community.

VolunteerMatch https://www.volunteermatch.org/

Volunteer.gov http://www.volunteer.gov/

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Online Resources

The Internet provides a wide range of websites aimed at teaching children new and exciting things. Additionally, many websites contain educational games to help children maintain their skill sets. Below are some links to just a few websites that offer learning opportunities through the Internet.

National Park Service WebRangers http://www.nps.gov/webrangers/

PBS Kids Zoom http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/index.html

Discovery Kids http://discoverykids.com/

NASA Kids’ Club https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forkids/kidsclub/flash/#.VXhqc_mjOm4

Smithsonian Kids http://www.si.edu/Kids

NGAkids http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/education/kids.html

Kids.gov http://kids.usa.gov/

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Resources for Libraries and Literacy Partners

Schools and community libraries can partner with others to provide summer learning experiences that are cost-effective — and meaningful for families and children. Here are some sites that offer resources and inspiration.

Association for Library Service to Children highlights successful partnerships between school and public libraries, including summer reading programs and lists, library card campaigns, community reading projects and special events. http://www.ala.org/alsc/schoolplcoop

Institute of Museum and Library Services inspires libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Join IMLS on Twitter at @US_IMLS for Fact Friday to see what others across the country are doing. http://www.imls.gov

Young Adult Library Services Association publishes “Speaking Up for Library Services for Teens,” to help communities partners plan successful libraries for young people ages 12-18. http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa

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