Summer slide is a term used by researchers to discuss the decline in knowledge from the previous school year, and the subsequent lack of readiness for the upcoming year, due to relative academic inactivity during summer vacation months. This issue has been known for some time, but a recent article published in The Conversation, written by the parent-academic duo, Keffrelyn and Anthony Brown, approached the issue from a very unique and equally important angle: discussing the impact of race (and income) on the summer slide, and the unrecognized burden of black parents to combat it.
Inspired by that article, I chose to provide some tips for parents to combat this issue. Understandably, this goes against the traditional view of summer in which children and parents receive a break from the responsibilities of the school year. Breaks are important, of course. By no means am I saying that your children should not be allowed to sleep a little longer, be involved with camping activities nor enjoy the pleasantries of a true vacation. However, balance is just as important. And due to the realities of a widening achievement gap for our students, we should seize every opportunity to prevent falling behind, or advancing even, where possible.
1. Fill In The Gaps:
Having kept up with your child’s progress throughout the year, you should have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. If not, speak with their teacher to see if there are areas your child struggled with while in class. Struggling doesn’t necessarily mean something your child is failing, rather it applies anything that your child hasn’t fully grasped or still finds challenging. Use the summer as opportunity to further explain, with more careful attention and possibly less distractions than a classroom setting provides. Some children benefit from a little more time on certain subjects. Pick a few hours during the day to work on these skills, preferably in the morning while they’re alert and energetic enough to process learning. After that, they can commence their summer plans.
2. Create A Reading List
This is something that should take place whether or not your child is struggling with literacy. Reading builds vocabulary, increases comprehension and critical thought, and is a great way to keep your child’s imagination active. With your child, select age appropriate books in which they find interest, and create a schedule/plan for them to complete the list by summer’s end. This can be accomplished by deciding a set number of pages to be read each day. If your child goes over that number, it’s fine, but it’s always good to have a goal in mind.
3. Start Journaling
To strengthen writing skills and use of the language learned in reading, encourage your child to journal. One such way is to have them journal about what they learned in a given day or during the week, as a personal record and benchmark for what you’ve accomplished. Another idea is to encourage free, creative writing and/or poetry as a way of building expression. In fact, there’s no reason why both can’t exist together.
4. Educational Games
If you play games as a family, choose ones with an element of education, or be sure to highlight the lesson in such games. For young children, games like Uno or Goldfish can strengthen matching and color skills. For older children, games like Monopoly are great for exercising simple math, and the 24 Challenge card game is great for multiplication. There are a number of others available in stores and online, with a little bit of research. What’s great about this, however, is that you can make learning fun, as it should be.
5. Family Field Trips
Last but not least. Consider family field trips to farms, the zoo, new cities, and museums. The amount of opportunities to learn and experience new things at these locations are plentiful. Take the time to create a list of takeaways you believe would be helpful for your child’s development, and encourage them to approach these trips from a vantage point of curiosity and analysis.
This will require a little more time and planning than usual, but our little ones are worth it. As teachers, we will do all we can to get children back into the groove following vacation. Yet, if we together as a team (parents, children and teachers), we can ensure our children are prepared for all situations and ready to take the bright future ahead of them.