LIVINGSTON: Summer learning slide is not an amusement park ride

We all need a chance to relax and regroup following a busy school year of meetings, classes, quizzes, projects and deadlines — right? Why the concern then with letting kids spend their summer playing and having fun?
Jun 14, 2013


It’s the loss of learning that happens when students go on summer break for 8-10 weeks, and what some educators refer to as the "summer slide" is actually a grim reality for many children. 

Beginning in 1982, researchers Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle from Johns Hopkins University have studied the summer-slide phenomenon extensively and discovered that almost all of the increase in the achievement gap traced to differential summer learning. Disadvantaged children generally kept pace during the school year, but fell back during the summer months. 

Most students fall behind at least two months in mathematics over the summer, yet low-income students fall behind 2-3 months additionally in reading. 

Research is clear on one thing: Regardless of income, most families want what’s best for their children. Why is it, then, that students from low-income families suffer the most?

The answer is simple: opportunity! Opportunity to visit the library and museums, have access to books and writing materials, go on vacation, attend day camp or overnight camp. Opportunity to have their summer months enriched.  

So, what can full-time working parents do to ensure their children don’t slip? The answer again is simple: opportunity! Give your children the opportunity to be successful. 

Follow these simple steps:
• Expect your child to be engaged in books or magazines for at least 30 minutes per day. Morning is best.
• Insist your child write or draw a simple response to what he or she has read.
• Math worksheets or computer-based math (Xtra math) for at least 20 minutes each day. Again, morning is best.
• Create the expectation that learning does not stop during the summer. Reading and math each day along with chores before playtime. 
• Make visiting the library with your child a weekly habit.

Talk with your children. Ask often: What would you like to learn today?

— By Valerie Livingston, principal of Mary A. White Elementary School in Grand Haven.


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