Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summer Loss

Many of us believe our school year was based on agricultural roots, but actually the heat of the summer is the main reason we adopted our current school calendars. Today's schools usually have air conditioning, but nevertheless retain a summer vacation. While this gives time for swim club, family trips, and reading for enjoyment, many children lose academic skills during the summer.

loss of reading skills over the summer appears to be income related. Following summer break most middle class children show a slight improvement in  their reading skill while poorer students show almost a three month decrease in the same skills. Some researchers believe that this accumulated loss is the reason for the widening achievement gap between middle class and poor children as they move through the grades.

Summer reading is cited as the main reason for improvement in middle class children's reading level.  The number of books in a home is highly correlated to the amount of summer reading activity.

Income does not seem to affect the 1.8 months of math skills lost by most children during the summer. The inclusiveness of this loss is thought to be because children of all income levels do very little math during the summer.

So should we worry about summer loss of skills?  My personal belief is all children should have some relief from academics during the summer.  On the other hand a child with LDs doesn't benefit from a summer totally without academics. Although there seems to be a general belief that a student with an LD often loses ground during the summer, I could find no research specifically about summer academic loss for children with LDs. My experience as a teacher of children with dyslexia, though, taught me that most of my students had a pretty big loss of reading skills over the summer. Many of these children didn't like to read and so didn't read anything on their long break.  Children with poor math skills also appeared to forget more than a child who was good in math. 

Parents can do a few things to alleviate summer loss.
  • Get a good chapter book and read to your child.
  • Take your child to the library and let him check out any book that draws his attention.  Any book - Guinness Book of World Records, a history of a sport, how to books, picture books. Don't worry if it appears too easy or appears to have too many pictures. This is a time for your child to enjoy books at the level he wants to enjoy them.
  • If she has just learned math facts have her do five a day at least 4 days a week.  If your child knows the facts but has just completed long division or fractions get some materials for short practice.  No more that 10 minutes each day. Consistency is more important than amount of material or time.
The great thing about summer is that it gives a child time: time to ask questions, to practice, to understand.  So as your child enjoys a break from school take advantage of this time. 

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