It’s only natural that kids get excited for summer vacation. However, parents may be concerned about “summer brain drain,” which occurs when students lose the knowledge they gained during the school year.
Unfortunately, many children show learning losses when they return to school in the fall, and these summer setbacks are cumulative, resulting in increasing levels of learning loss over time, according to RAND research.
“Parents can keep minds sharp by creating fun summer learning opportunities at home,” says Dr. Clement Chau, director of learning for VTech and LeapFrog, home to a number of educational learning products.
To help families avoid summer setbacks, Chau is offering the following ideas and tips.
• Visit a library. Many libraries offer summer reading challenges which can prove to be great motivation to crack open a book. Enlist the expertise of librarians to help children find titles they’ll enjoy, and use the “five-finger” test to be sure your child has books at the proper reading level: read one page of a book; if there are more than five unknown words, have your child choose another book.
• Learn about a new topic. Has your child been collecting rocks when playing outdoors? Does he or she like to point out different shapes of clouds in the sky? Encourage children to research and learn more about the subjects that fascinate them. If they are passionate about a topic, they’ll be more likely to seek out more information.
• Set aside required reading time. On average, children who read more than 20 minutes a day scored above the 90th percentile on standardized reading tests, and reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing, according to the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. Make reading a daily habit in your home.
• Look for teachable moments. Going to a baseball game? Show your child how to calculate a batting average or a pitcher’s ERA. Making dinner? Let your child measure the ingredients. Clipping coupons? Show your child how much money will be saved in your grocery budget. Going on a road trip? Look up some fun facts about the different states you’ll see on license plates.
• Read together. Forty-eight percent of children ages six to eight report that they want adults to read aloud to them, even though they are able to read on their own, according to the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. Use this time with your child to discuss the topics in the book and ask questions that help build critical thinking skills. Try such prompts as: Tell me about your favorite character. What was your favorite part of the book and why? Would you recommend this book to a friend?
“With a fun focus on learning, you can help children stay academically active all summer, which will help ease the transition back to the classroom in fall,” says Chau.