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How to prevent summer learning loss

Ah, summer. Between sun, friends and fun, who has time to think about school? By the time September rolls around, many students have forgotten much of what they learned last year. Instead of learning new things, they spend valuable time in the first few weeks of school just catching up.

In general, all students lose academic skills over the summer months. This is known as summer learning loss. Students are more likely to forget what they have learned in mathematics because it is primarily learned in schools from teachers, not in the home from parents. Summer learning loss also occurs in reading, although this loss is less severe than in mathematics because the home is more conducive for reading and language development. In other words, parents are more likely to encourage their children to read than perform math equations.

The good news is, summer learning loss can be prevented. There are many summer learning programs available to help your child maintain their academic progress throughout the summer. However, while summer learning programs are great, there are many activities you and your child can do yourselves, at a much lower cost, to reduce your child's summer learning loss or make it disappear altogether.

Join a summer reading club

Many public libraries have summer reading clubs for all age groups. These clubs aim to retain children's reading skills over the summer. The clubs provide members with book suggestions, hold special events, and get kids excited about reading. There are opportunities for your child to write about the books that they've read and discuss books with other children.

Cook together

Cooking presents many opportunities for your child to use math and reading skills. Have your child read out the baking instructions and the ingredients list and choose the appropriate measuring cups and spoons. Then have your child measure out each ingredient. You can even throw in some multiplication or addition by telling him that you need three times ¼ cups of flour, or two plus one tablespoons of butter.

Visit the museum, art gallery or science centre

Nurture your child's curiosity with a day at the museum, art gallery, or science centre. These are great places for your child to learn about history, culture, and science. Many of these places offer hands-on activities that your child is sure to love and you can encourage your child to read out the signs that explain various exhibits. Although there is typically an admission fee for most of these sites, there are often promotional days and affordable child rates that you can look out for. Some admission fees are even a simple donation.

Create a summer reading list

Many schools prepare summer reading lists for each grade that students can pick up from the school library or principal's office. This ensures that your child is reading books at the appropriate level of difficulty. Most books will be available at the public library, so you don't need to go out and buy them. You and your child can create your own summer reading lists, too. Bookstores and libraries have a variety of resources and people to talk to who can suggest books that your child should enjoy.

Play board games

There are many board games out there that require your child to do simple math calculations and use strategic planning skills. Any board game that includes play money will help your child with his math skills and is also a great way for him to develop his financial literacy.

Fight back against summer learning loss - help your child acquire new skills and build on existing ones this summer.

Andrea Nameth
Editorial Intern


Annie E. Casey Foundation. Early Warning! Why Reading by the end of Third Grade Matters. A Kids Count Special Report. 2010.

McCombs JS, Augustine CH, Schwartz HL, Bodilly SJ, McInnis B, Lichter DS, and Cross AB. Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children's Learning. RAND Corporation; 2011.