Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: As School Lets Out, How to Prevent the Summer Slide

With summer approaching, many of you are probably thinking of the trips you want to take, the family visits, or even what to do with the kids while you are at work. The kids are probably thinking of their TVs and video games, staying up late, and life without homework!

What most of you probably are not thinking of are the effects that two months without school may have on your child’s knowledge next fall. The summer slide, which simply put means the loss of learning by students over the summer, is a very real issue. According to the National Summer Learning Association some students lose between one and three months of learning over the summer months. So what can you do to prevent this? Creating a summer routine that involves learning may be the best gift you can give your child this summer. Here are some tips on how to keep your child learning over the summer months.

• Encourage reading. Students should be reading about four to six books over the summer months. These books should be at their independent reading level. If you are unsure what this is, use the five finger rule. If your child has difficulty with more than five words on a page, the book is probably too difficult for him or her. Model good reading by reading aloud to your child or by partner reading. Have your child read a page or two and then you can read them a page or two. Discuss the vocabulary you come across, discuss issues that arise, and make sure to ask questions so you know if your child is understanding what is being read.

• Find books that are also movies so you can read the book first and then watch the movie together. Discuss the similarities and differences between the two.

• Find other ways to incorporate reading and math skills together. Read menus at restaurants and have your child figure out the bill. Read the schedules at amusement parks, zoos, or museums and have them plan their day. Give them a journal to jot down what they see and what they would like to know more about. Sit with them afterwards and help them research answers to their questions.

• Planning a trip? Research the mileage, best routes, where to stay, where to eat, the weather and anything else that goes into planning a trip.

• Driving in a car or riding on an airplane this summer? Consider checking out an audio book. These are a great way to get kids interested in books and involve the whole family at the same time!

• Make learning geography a family affair. Visit websites that test your map skills. Get out a map and plan your visit to the relatives. Look up mileage on MapQuest or Google maps and have your child figure out how long a car ride will take.

• Visit websites with your child that will get them thinking. See suggestions at the end of the article.

• Download apps such as Words With Friends, Scrabble, Scramble With Friends, Word Warp. Caution – these games can be addicting!

• Read the newspaper everyday. Check the weather section keeping track of the changes day to day, read the letters to the editors, or check out an online edition of a kids’ newspaper.

• Filling out an application for summer camp or a new hobby for your child? Involve your child in this process. Have them help gather the required documents and discuss why the organization needs these documents. Have them fill out the paperwork and plan for the costs, if any, associated with this new hobby.

• Find something your child is interested in and order a subscription to a magazine. Some suggestions: Sports Illustrated Kids, National Geographic Kids, Time for Kids.

• Cook with your child. This is a great opportunity to practice reading a recipe and working with measurements, especially fractions. Don’t forget to include your child on the trip to the grocery store. Teach them about ordering lunchmeat from the deli (fractions and decimals) or how to estimate the cost of the groceries in the cart. Then have them watch the register to make sure everything rings up correctly!

• Plan a Fourth of July celebration. Talk about how many people to invite, what food to have, and what the costs will be. Shop around for best prices and teach your child about making decisions.

Whatever you choose, just remember to keep your child engaged in learning. Make it a part of their summer and make sure they realize that just like healthy eating and exercising, they must also continue to exercise their brain!


Michele Harcarik is the reading specialist at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church.