STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Many kids fall behind academically during the summer. Here are 8 ways to prevent learning loss

Girl reading book in library
Barney Moss / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Summer is finally here, and students are enjoying some time off from school. But come September, many students will be several weeks behind where they were when school ended in June.

Kids can experience summer learning loss – or "summer slide" – if they aren't engaging in educational activities during the summer months. This can be especially detrimental to low-income students. A Johns Hopkins study found low-income kids lose two months of reading skills over the summer, while their higher-income peers make slight gains.

According to the National Summer Learning Association:

By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students between two to three years behind their peers. Research shows while gaps in student achievement remain relatively constant during the school year, the gaps widen significantly during the summer. Regardless of income, most kids lose two months of math skills in the summer.

Summer learning loss leaves kids spending weeks struggling to catch up to where they once were, and teachers spending a significant amount of time re-teaching material.

So, how can you reduce summer brain drain? Here are some ideas from The Huffington Post:

1. Visit your local library and take turns reading to one another. You can also share interests, and write and discuss your choices of reading material.

2. Going on field trips to museums opens up all kinds of activities that are related to history, math, science, geography and social studies. You can link a trip to a particular museum to the library, to find books that relate to the museum exhibitions. Trips to places like ice cream factories, cheese factories, bakeries, farmer’s markets, arboretums, and zoos also provide learning opportunities.

3. Cooking with your kids not only teaches cooking skills, but math, as you teach your child how to measure and convert weights, volumes and numbers.

4. Play school with your children. Let your child take turns being the teacher, with other children or with yourself. Include the creation of lesson plans, colorful pencils and workbooks.

5. Putting on family plays, writing scripts, rehearsing and memorizing parts can help your child not only learn about writing and organization, but also about performing. Try musicals, which can tap into your child’s musical talents and skills, while building self-esteem.

6. Family game nights including Scrabble, Taboo or crossword puzzles are a great way for your child to polish up on spelling. And enlarging your summertime vocabulary daily will increase your child’s.

7. Send your kids to camp. If your child is lucky enough to be able to go to camp over the summer, they may enjoy a camp that focuses on their interests. If you can’t afford a camp, you may have access to free and available day camp activities in your area.

8. Take family vacations to historic places like Williamsburg, Valley Forge or The Liberty Bell. They include the re-enactments of important moments in history, and are exciting. If you can’t afford family trips, you can plan for a future trip.

Most importantly: Have fun, be engaged and get creative!

Check out a list of specialty kids' camps in Michigan from Metro Parent hereDo you have any tips for preventing summer slide? Let us know in the comments below.

Paulette is a blogger for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously interned as a reporter in the Michigan Radio newsroom.
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