How parents can help their children avoid summer learning loss

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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School is sometimes the last thing on the minds of students and parents during the summer. But it shouldn't be. In fact, the summer break from classroom learning presents parents with an outstanding opportunity to not only spend quality time with their children, but also to help them succeed in school.

A century of research shows that students often forget a lot of what they learned during the previous school year. It's called Summer Learning Loss, and it's a very familiar concept: Use it or lose it.

That's exactly what happens to students every summer. Elementary school students can lose two or more months' worth of math knowledge or reading skills over the summer.

But Summer Learning Loss is completely preventable, and that's where the opportunity lies.

"The key is to make it fun," said Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher. "It's OK to take a vacation from school, but not from learning. By getting their children into a reading and math routine in the summer, parents will help ensure their students succeed in school. And they'll have fun with their kids in the process."

Dooher suggests these tips:

¥ Take advantage of nature. Reading or math while walking through the park or visiting a museum won't feel like lessons at all.

¥ Find ways to get age-appropriate math skills into your summer routine. Measure things in the yard. Add and subtract while shopping or driving. Do fractions while cooking.

¥ Set a good example. Children who see their parents read are far more likely to read themselves.

¥ Let your children read what they like to read in the summer. Magazines, short stories or novelsÐit doesn't matter. Summer reading is about retaining skills, not learning new ones.

¥ Plan trips to the library.

¥ Read aloud to your children, or ask them to read to you.

¥ Encourage your student to write during the summer. Letters to relatives,Ê postcards to friends or journals about their summer experiences work just fine.

So, how much is enough? Some research suggests reading as few as six self-selected books per summer will maintain a child's reading skills. Ten to 20 books actually improve those skills.

Summer Learning Loss isn't inevitable, but it requires attention from parents, because without encouragement, children aren't likely to do that work on their own. "A little bit of learning time can make all the difference," Dooher said. "So have fun enjoying the summer and bring learning into your routine in new and different ways."

About Education Minnesota

Education Minnesota represents 70,000 professionals working together for excellence in education for all students. Education Minnesota's members include teachers and educational support professionals in Minnesota's public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota's community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO. More information about Education Minnesota is available at