Summer Learning Loss? Not in My House.

As the school year draws to a close my mind turns to my kids’ summer vacation. Summer conjures up a variety of things for me: summer camp, pool, ice cream, road trips, camping, hiking, ice cream truck, swimming, baseball, barbeques, ice cream, sprinklers, corn on the cob, popsicles and reading. (Did I mention ice cream?)

I think about reading because research has shown that kids can lose ground in their reading ability over the summer months. In fact, two-thirds of the academic achievement gap in reading and language found among high school students has been explained through the learning loss that occurs during the summer months of the primary school years. (Entwisle, D., Alexander, K., & Olson, L. 2000. “Summer Learning and Home Environment.”)

Reading & Writing: Must-Do Activities

Kids make such big strides during the school year that it seems like such a waste to allow their learning to stop—or worse, backslide over the summer. In our house we’ve made reading and writing over the summer must-do activities. Although I believe in the value of math, science, art, and music just as much as reading and writing, you can’t perform any of those subjects (let alone succeed in life) without solid reading and writing skills. How many times have you received an email and wondered, “Where did that person learn how to write?!”

Library Reading Programs are Key.

A cornerstone in keeping my kids motivated to read and write during the summer has been the summer reading programs offered by our local library. When they were in their early elementary years (Pre-K to 3rd grade) the prizes and coupons offered by the College Hill Library summer reading program were enough motivation for them. And they got to practice their writing by completing the worksheets to list the books they read.

You Say Bribes. I Say Rewards.

As my kids have gotten older, we’ve had to get more creative with the rewards (bribes?) for reading. If they read three books and write three book reports, their reward is to go to one of their favorite places, such as Dave & Busters, for one of their favorite activities—video games. Whatever it takes, I say!

Volunteering: The Next Phase

As we enter middle school I feel we’re moving into yet another phase with their summer reading and writing. My oldest will be volunteering with the Library’s summer reading program. There’s a nice symmetry to that. We can give back to the program that we’ve benefited from for so many years, and he can be on the other side of the table helping the younger kids select their ‘prize’ each week. And it keeps him busy for a few hours each week!

As an ulterior mom motive, I hope he’ll witness the young kids’ excitement at receiving rewards for their reading accomplishments. And just maybe that will help to fuel his own love for reading. Too much to hope for? Maybe. I think we’ll still need the promise of something fun to keep them reading this summer, but I’m hopeful all these rewards are leading to a love of reading and writing in the long run.

How do you motivate kids to keep reading over the summer?




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Sandra Bergman is the Assistant Director of Digital Marketing at Front Range Community College. She's a rare Colorado native and enjoys all of the outdoor delights Colorado has to offer.

6 Responses to “Summer Learning Loss? Not in My House.”

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May 22, 2013 at 10:59 am, A. Fox said:

What a great blog! I think many people don’t understand the importance of getting kids to read through the summer to retain their reading skills. Programs where kids participate creatively with other kids are part of retaining these skills.

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May 22, 2013 at 11:03 am, Sandra Bergman said:

Thanks Annie. It’s not easy to get the kids to sit down and read in the summer when there’s so many other temptations, so the library programs really help to motivate them.

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May 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm, Alicia said:

These are great ideas!! As Director of the Virtual Learning Center at Sylvan I will share this information with all our families! I am always looking for additional ways to encourage our students and their parents. Sylvan offers online tutoring in reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing, math and SAT/ACT test prep> These programs are also great for keeping up their skills or helping them to get caught up (or ahead) over the summer. I really like the social and stewardship aspect of volunteering and getting involved at the local library, as well as the reward aspect of a fun family night out. What a wonderful opportunity to create positive families memories. I believe it would make your child feel very special and encouraged. We should teach our children to be life long learners – and keeping them involved and learning year round helps them to develop that as a lifestyle. Thank you Sandra!

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May 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm, Sandra Bergman said:

Thanks Alicia. For teenagers especially I think the social involvement with the local library is important. Reading at that age is so often a solitary activity and I’m grateful he has the opportunity to be involved with others. I’m looking forward to seeing what he thinks of it.

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May 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm, Donna Kay said:

I completely agree! The home resource we have found to be the most useful is the ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program. With a student activity book, parent guide to summer and achievement medal, it is the right balance of study skills and fun. It was developed by a mom for her whole school to stay on track together and celebrate in the fall all their summer accomplishments.

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May 24, 2013 at 10:28 am, Sandra Bergman said:

Thanks for the tip Donna. I’ll have to check that out.