When most parents start to think about summer break, they may wonder about the long stretches of free time their children will have. Parents should also be considering the potential for Summer Learning Loss (SLL) that their children may experience.
Oftentimes during the summer, when children are home with their parents, they may not be getting the same stimulation and educational opportunities that they would receive in a school setting.
The Colorado Department of Education has done SLL research and found that students from low-income families have a higher tendency to be impacted by SLL as they may have fewer resources to support reading and learning during summer months. There’s a potential for students to fall behind two months with their reading. This issue is cumulative, meaning every summer the loss can be compounded.
The good news is there are resources available to parents and caregivers to support summer reading and learning. Local community libraries are an excellent option for students as most branches have summer reading programs to support children, youth and even adults. These same libraries typically offer free enrichment and educational activities to support learners of all ages.
It’s important for parents and caregivers to mitigate potential learning loss, primarily through designating specific activities during summer break that will help build student’s cognitive skills. These uses of time may include reading, building puzzles and playing games that require problem solving.
Parents can also provide opportunities for outdoor play and exploration. These activities not only stave off boredom, but also help children use their thinking skills in new and exciting ways.
Another idea for keeping your student engaged in learning throughout summer break is to get them helping in the kitchen. Allowing experimentation with recipes is a great way to engage math and science knowledge.
Participating in cultural events in your community is another great option for engaging a young learner in the history of your community.
In the Weld RE-1 (Platteville/Gilcrest/LaSalle) school district, our elementary school students receive books to take home, with parents encouraged to read with their children every night. Weld RE-1 also offers a Jumpstart program designed to begin back-to-school early for students that need a little extra attention for getting back into the groove of schooling ahead of the new year.
Additionally, middle school students can participate in summer school to reinforce important concepts learned throughout the year. Weld RE-1 school district also offers a summer enrichment camp for students that are curious about learning through more hands-on STEM activities.
Checking in with your student’s teacher or school counselors before the 2022-23 school year ends is a great way to learn about the offerings that your specific school or school district has to support your student’s summer learning and educational opportunities. And keep in mind, reading four-to-six books during the summer is sufficient for keeping your middle or high school student’s Summer Learning Loss to a minimum.
Helping to prevent SLL is most impactful when there is a collaborative effort between schools, parent groups, community centers and social service agencies working together to encourage summer reading programs and educational opportunities. Reaching out to any of these organizations is another great way to find summer learning opportunities for students in your community.
Johan van Nieuwenhuizen is the Weld Re-1 school district superintendent and a United Way of Weld County board of director member.