Research about how much children lose ground over the summer is well documented. Harris Cooper of Duke University notes, "Overall, children experience an average summer learning loss across reading and mathematics of about one month" (1996).
The thing is, though, kids don't have to lose over the summer. In fact, you can encourage your child to have a summer of fun and learning with these five free and easy things to do. Try them out!
1. Read Every Day
At the middle school level, reading four to five books over the summer has a positive impact on fall reading achievement comparable to attending summer school (Kim, 2004).
Take your kids to the library often and let them choose which books to check out. Listen to books on tape. Subscribe them to a magazine. Take turns reading to each other. Allow your kids to stay up a half hour later at night as long as they're reading.
2. Use Math Every Day
The largest summer learning losses for all children occur in mathematical computation, an average of 2.6 months (Cooper, 1996).
Practice the multiplication tables by making each point in a basketball game worth 7 points (or 8 or 9). Ask your kids to make change at the drive-thru. Show your child how to go to Cool Math to play math games. Make up math word problems in the car and at the dinner table.
3. Get Outside and Play
Intense physical activity programs have positive effects on academic achievement, including increased concentration; improved mathematics, reading, and writing test scores; and reduced disruptive behavior (Journal of School Health 1997).
Find ways to ensure your child is active for 60 minutes each day. Have him or her walk the neighbor's dog, go swimming, play badminton or soccer, take walks, or go for family bike rides. Look for safe, fun ways to play outside together year-round. Go to Family Corner Magazine and PBS Parents for more ideas.
4. Write Every Week
More freshmen entering degree-granting postsecondary institutions take remedial writing courses than take remedial reading courses (NCES 2003).
Ask your child to write a weekly letter to his or her grandparents, relatives, or friends. Encourage him to keep a summer journal. Have her write the family's grocery list. Organize a secret pal writing project for adults and kids at your church or in your community.
5. Do a Good Deed
Students learn better and "act out" less when they engage in activities to aid in their social-emotional development, such as community service (The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning, 2004).
Encourage your child to help out neighbors or friends. He or she can volunteer with a local group or complete a service learning project. Suggest that your child set aside part of his allowance for charity.