It has multiple names—summer brain drain and summer slide are two common ones--but the phenomenon of academic skills getting lost and forgotten over the summer means kids take steps backward instead of forward. With a little thought and planning, it’s possible to maximize their summer fun and also help them hold on to what they’ve learned and even take it to the next level.
Last year the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) in an article titled, “Summer Learning Loss: What We Know and What We’re Learning,” by Megan Kuhfeld, Ph.D., suggests that gaps exist in research on summer slide and that much of what’s considered fact was published in the ‘90s based on research done in the ‘70s and ‘80s when summertime activities looked much different than they do now.
Kuhfeld notes that “most of the more recent research on summer learning loss has examined its prevalence in the very early grades—primarily K-2.”
However, she includes a graph showing that “summer learning loss is clearly observed in both math and reading in each summer term between third and eighth grade.” Even more troubling, the loss increases each year so that “by the summer after seventh grade, students,” she notes, “lose on average 36 percent of their school-year gains in reading and a whopping 50 percent of their school-year gains in math.”
Other sources further suggest that summer slide is cumulative across the years, which suggests that while annual percentages may increase in the upper elementary grades, preventing or reducing it in the early years provides a stronger baseline and also establishes habits and practices for preventing it.
A document titled, “Summer Slide and the Importance of Reading over the Summer,” published by the Colorado Department of Education, suggests that “Reading just 4 to 6 books over the summer has the potential to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores from the spring to the fall, so even small steps are very beneficial.”
The piece notes that “Children and teens tend to read more when adults in their lives encourage them to read, and also when they see those adults reading often themselves.”
Reading, of course, can comprise entire books, or it can be part of other learning activities. For example, in the Explore the City Kindergarten Learn & Play Tablet, little ones can join three adventurous friends and their trusted canine companion on an exciting adventure. Each page “visits” different sites around town and beyond. Activities that focus on learning specific skills such as letters, numbers, time, and fractions are paired with fun activities that go with them such as mazes, dot-to-dots, hidden pictures, puzzles, and drawing and coloring pages.
In Travel the World First Grade Learn & Play Tablet fun-loving Izzy, her explorer dad and their best canine pal visit different places across the globe, often including unexpected fun facts that can lead to further exploration. For example: “The argan goats can climb the argan trees to eat the fruit. Encourage kids to learn more about the goats, t he tress, and Morocco on the Internet or in the library!
This also demonstrates how targeted screen time and paper books can work together and complement one another. In fact, the For Parents section of PBS Kids last year posted, “Beating the Summer Brain Drain,” by Eric Rasmussen, Ph.D. In it he suggests hopping on the Internet together with your child to answer questions and learn more about observations and experiences. Imagine, for example, all the informational places beyond “ouch” that a bee sting can lead!
Similarly, in the Yakima Herald article “Just Say No to the Summer Brain Drain” by Mai Hoang, she quotes Kate Mastruserio Reynolds, chair of the Department of Education, Development, Teaching and Learning and a professor of literacy at Central Washington University, who says of summertime learning, “We’re not trying to replicate school,” add that “We’re building relationships with our kids and teaching them stuff along the way.”
Other great tools for keeping skills in multiple areas sharp over summer are 320-page workbooks such as Big Math 1-2, Big Second Grade, and Big Third Grade. Get kids doing just a few pages a day to keep their school “muscles” in shape.
For digital skill-sharpening the online learning destination Anywhere Teacher lets multiple kids ages 2-8 in a household practice essential skills online anywhere, anytime. It’s available as a Windows download, Mac app, iOS app, and Android app. A free 7-day trial gives unrestricted access to hundreds of games, videos, books, music, and printables. And password-protected parental controls allow parents to customize activities, and subject areas that include reading, math, science, social studies, music, and art.
Help your child think through goals for the summer and for the next school year and line up the materials to turn those goals into successful outcomes.