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How to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Summer is here, and many parents are planning activities for their children while they are out of school. This is the time to consider summer learning loss.

By Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital

Summer learning loss refers to the amount of academic information children forget over the course of the summer. Studies have found children who do not practice learning skills over the summer can forget as much as two months of reading skills and one month of math skills. If this loss occurs over multiple summers, a student can end up one year behind academically. Meanwhile, research has found students who read 30 minutes daily over the summer will gain one month of reading skills and those who practice math routinely throughout the summer can gain math skills as well.

Let me explain it this way. Let’s say Student A is a third grader who ends the school year in May and is found to be at a third grade, ninth month reading level. This student does not read at all over the summer, except instructions on how to play a video game. When Student A starts fourth grade in September and is retested, Student A’s reading level is found to be at a third grade, seventh month level. Student A has a summer learning loss of two months of reading skills.

Student B is a third grader who ends the school year at a third grade, ninth month reading level in May. Student B reads 30 minutes daily throughout the summer. When Student B starts fourth grade in September, Student B’s reading level is tested at the fourth grade, first month level. Student B gained one month of reading skills over the summer. These two students are in the same class. In other words, Student A’s reading level is at March of third grade, while Student B’s reading level is at September of fourth grade. If this pattern continues, Student A will fall further behind and Student B will advance.

What can you do to limit summer learning loss? Here are some suggestions:

  • Read with your child 30 minutes daily. Make reading fun—comic books, graphic novels, magazines, chapter books—with subjects that are interesting and motivating to your child.
  • Limit screen time to less than two hours a day. Evidence suggests the more time a child spends in front of a screen (e.g. TV, electronic tablet, computer), the harder it becomes for them to pay attention and exercise impulse control.
  • Visit local museums. Houston has a rich museum district with a plethora of learning opportunities for children. Thursday evenings are free.
  • Consider signing them up for summer camps. Summer camps can expose children to activities that build their knowledge, world view and competence.
  • Schedule regular educational outings that are fun and engaging. The Houston Family Magazine website contains a calendar of local activities, events and camps for children.

Plan your child’s summer in such a way that they experience summer learning gain, not loss.

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