Have you ever heard of the “summer slide”? No, it’s not spending time in the back yard watching your children go up and down the slide on their swing set. It’s also not a ride at the county fair. Summer slide describes what happens to children’s minds if they don’t exercise them during the summer months. What do I mean by exercise? Having kids read and do some cognitive thinking.
Many parents, me included, think about what activities our kids are going to be involved in during the summer months. We sign them up for swim lessons, volleyball camps, horse camps, boy/girl scout camps, or we spend time planning and going on family vacations. We have good intentions to make sure they focus on brain exercises (i.e., reading and math), but the warm weather and summer disappear fast.
The problem is that when school starts, they’re rusty. Things they learned the previous school year are gone, and teachers have to spend the first month of school re-teaching.
To learn more about summer slide and how to prevent it, I interviewed Dan Hebel, chief professional officer at the Boys & Girls Club of Fond du Lac. Because of the great work the Boys & Girls Club does for children, I thought they would be a good resource.
Q: How do you or the club define the summer slide?
A: Summer slide is the loss of knowledge or concepts learned in the previous school year due to the lack of stimulating academic activities during the summer months. When students lack challenging educational opportunities that keep their brains thinking critically, there is a natural regression in the ability to learn new concepts because the previously-learned material must be re-learned.
Q: What does the Boys & Girls Club do to address this?
A: The Boys & Girls Club of Fond du Lac has a ten-week summer learning program offered to youth ages 7 to 11. Each child attends a mandatory daily, two-hour summer school learning program that focuses on teaching math and reading concepts and skills. The goal of the program is to keep their minds working and absorbing the material. Our program gives children a better opportunity to be prepared to learn on the first day of school, eliminating the need to catch up to their peers. This program serves an average of 130 youth per day, with over 250 participating during the summer.
Q: What are some ways parents and kids can help prevent the summer slide?
A: Education should be a part of the daily routine for children in the summer. Promoting reading time, short story writing or journal activities, and working on spelling words can be great ways to stimulate them to use language arts skills. Math flashcards and other logic and problem-solving exercises can be successful ways to stimulate their critical thinking and processing skills.
So if your kids haven’t done much reading or critical thinking this summer, it’s not too late. There are plenty of online resources to help you jump start a summer learning program. Here are some of them for your review.
- What Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading During the Summer?
- Children Who Can Read, But Don’t…
- Teenagers and Reading
And if your children spend a lot of time on their smart devices, Amazon has a subscription service called kindleunlimited. For $9.99 a month, you can enjoy unlimited access to more than 600,000 books. What’s really nice is that if your child doesn’t like to read books (like my youngest daughter), he or she can choose a book and read it on an electronic device which they might enjoy more.
Please make sure you download the appropriate book for them or you share with them your expectations. Not all books are suitable for children.
Do you have any comments you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.