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Voxxi: Tips so your child won't forget what he learned in school this summer

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Summer school might not always be an option for the your child, but there are programs that can help a child avoid what's called summer learning loss. The absence from school can make any child forget what they learned throughout the year. (Shutterstock)

By John Benson, June 24, 2014

The good new is summer is here. The bad news is any education gains your child made this past school year are at risk: Many children might forget what they learned throughout the school year.

Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) CEO Tiffany Gueye tells VOXXI the issue is called summer learning loss, and every student currently taking a 10-week vacation from studying is affected.

"We know from research that kids are actually losing skills during this time," Gueye said. "All kids demonstrate a loss of a month's worth of math skills. That's all kids, no matter what kind of home they come from. It's no different if you were taking piano lessons and then took 10-weeks off. Your skills are going to regress."

She added that summer learning loss in reading is tied directly to income, with underprivileged children losing two months of literacy skills, while their counterparts in middle to upper-income homes actually gaining roughly a month's worth of skills because they're reading newspapers and books, as well as visiting museums and libraries.

"A reading achievement gap is developing for low-income and upper-income children," Gueye said. "It's very significant and it accumulates over time, which makes it even worse. It's contributing significantly to what happens by the time they get to middle school, where there is this enormous gap in skills."

She added, "Anybody who attends a high poverty school is at risk of losing skills, even where they might have some resources in the home. This is well documented research, but the good news is there are things they can do."

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Providing your child with plenty of fun reading material is a good way to skip summer learning loss. (Shutterstock)

In addition to an after-school program during the school year, BELL provides a summer-learning model around the country in schools that deliver small-group academic instruction, mentorship, a wide range of enrichment activities and community engagement.

What you can do

Gueye stressed that parents need to be proactive to ensure their children don't suffer from summer learning loss.

"I'd encourage the Latino community to go to their school and actually advocate for a summer program if there's nothing available," Gueye said. "More schools are becoming aware that, ‘Hey, if we send the kids home for 10 weeks, we'll spend two months in the fall helping catch back up again. It doesn't make a lot of sense.'"

Tips to keep kids sharp during summer

  • Access a summer learning program that enriches literacy and math skills. If your school doesn't offer anything, ask around at libraries, parks and even rec departments.
  • Parents are encouraged to provide access to reading from newspapers to library brooks. "There's some evidence that suggests age-appropriate social media outlets are good reading opportunities for children," Gueye said. "You want them to keep practicing reading and all the better if you can expose them to interesting content that they can connect with their friends or peers about."
  • Summer learning doesn't have to be punitive. Make it fun and be creative.
  • Take advantage of learning opportunities, such as having kids help make a meal and in the process get a math lesson while they learn about measurements. "The idea is really you don't have to be physics teacher to talk to your child about geometric shapes or what's happening when they go down a slide," Gueye said. "Getting them to think intentionally about what's going on will keep their mind sharp."

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