Summer Brain Drain!

Three Ways to Prevent Summer Learning Loss with Reading and Literacy Games

Summer learning loss, also known as "the summer slide," is a phenomenon long noted by parents and educators--kids come out of the school year hitting certain learning benchmarks, yet often begin school in September unable to achieve those same scores. And it's hardly a recent trend. As the National Summer Learning Association points out, this deterioration of cognitive skills and literacy has been observed by researchers in American schools for over one hundred years! (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).

So what can parents and tutors do to prevent learning loss, if it's such a widespread and deep-rooted part of education in America? While we don't have all the answers, here are three easy steps you can take to help keep your child on track over the summer and ready to learn in the fall:

  • Try We Give Books: a program for students in grades K-5 to access free books online. Each month, the site adds new books appropriate for both group read-alouds and independent readers. And for each book read online, another is donated to charity as a part of the site’s ongoing literacy promotion efforts.
  • Make building vocabulary fun with online games. PBS and the BBC each have developed a slew of free literacy games to help students build and retain reading comprehension skills. You can also try Opposite Ocean, a great app that allows student to improve vocabulary and reading comprehension from anywhere. Available for iOS, this interactive app developed in concert with the Virginia Department of Education allows students to master antonyms while “going deep” on grade-appropriate vocabulary. Find a literacy game that excites your child and you won't be able to pull them away.
  • Go to the library. This one may seem obvious, but it is also crucial. The California Library Association and the The New York State Library both emphasize the benefits of summer reading programs at libraries. Struggling students receive reading enrichment activities they wouldn't typically get during the schoolyear, can learn literacy skills with alternative media like magazines and graphic novels, and often return to libraries as part of their summer routines in the years to come. Furthermore, libraries are a great place for literacy instruction because they don't carry the stigma of the classroom. Lastly, they're air-conditioned!

Next week, we'll be continuing our series on reading and summer learning loss by discussing how to choose books with your child, and how to tell if your child is actually comprehending them.

Happy Learning,