The school year is quickly coming to a close and before long teachers and students will be packing up and heading out for a nice, long summer break. While the break might be a fun, relaxing time for some young children, summer can mean an empty stomach and loss of learning for many others.

Summer learning loss, also referred to as the summer slide, is the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation, and it is a real phenomenon in the United States that has been proven by research. Children, especially those from families of low socioeconomic status, may gain very little in reading achievement levels and even fall behind during the break. Researchers have found that a student’s learning environment outside of schoolover those summer months may have more of an impact on his academic success up through high school than it does over the course of an entire school year.

While you cannot control your students’ learning environment outside of school, you can motivate them to find or create their own positive, learning-rich environment while they are on summer break. Here are some tips to help. Share them with parents and ask for their help with encouraging students to keep learning all summer long.

  • Ask students to find a quiet spot, inside or outside, and set aside time to read every day. Reading is one of the best things a student can do to continue learning over the summer.
  • Send each student home with a book. Libraries and communities often hold book sales where you can buy books or a bag of books for very little cost. Plan ahead and collect books over the school year to make it even easier.
  • Encourage students to visit the local library. If they can easily get there, the library might just be your students’ favorite spot for the summer. They can access books, DVDs, computers, reading programs and other events offered by the library.
  • Contact the local library to find a bookmobile in your area. Get a copy of the summer schedule and distribute it to students before the last day of school. This offers a nice alternative for students who may not be able to get to the local library.
  • Provide a suggested summer reading list. List books appropriate for your students’ reading levels and include those you think might be fun and interesting to them.
  • Get the entire school involved. Give students a reading log they can use to keep track of the books they read over the summer. Then, at the beginning of the next school year, the school can reward students based on the number of books they read. For example, hold an ice cream social if students read X number of books. If they read fewer books, you can reward students with smaller prizes, like stickers. The idea is to give them something to look forward to for keeping up with reading and learning during the break.
  • Let students know where they can get free meals over the summer to keep up their energy and openness to learning. Find a Summer Food Service Program at http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks or call 1-866-3 HUNGRY.

Do you have other tips or ideas to motivate your students to avoid the summer slide? Share them with us on the GrapeSEED Facebook page!

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