By State Senator Julie Lassa
It’s summer, and school-aged kids are finding all kinds of ways to have fun, from a trip to the pool or playground to catching Pokémon with smart phones. Unfortunately, they are also forgetting some of what they learned in school last year, a phenomenon called “summer slide.”
Like other skills, reading and math have to be practiced for students to maintain their proficiency. Results on standardized tests show that all that time off can lead students to lose as much as three months of learning over the summer break. Much of the beginning of the new school year has to be spent helping kids catch up to the skills they had last June.
Summer slide can be prevented with just a little regular practice of math and reading skills. But if your kids are like mine, it’s not very realistic to expect them to start cracking the books and practicing flash cards during summer vacation. The key is to make practice fun. Here are some tips from the National Summer Learning Association to help engage kids in keeping their learning sharp all summer long.
Encourage reading every day. Make a special event out of a trip to the public library, and let your kids pick out whatever interests them. Give your kids a special treat for every book they finish. Help them set up a reading corner in their room that’s quiet, comfortable and free of various electronic distractions. Best of all, give them the gift of your own example as an enthusiastic reader. All these activities will help children associate reading with a good time, and make it easier to encourage them to read every day.
Another way to make reading fun is to share a poem together. Poems by writers like Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak and others are fun to read aloud, and often have an irreverent sense of humor that appeals to children. Take turns reading them aloud to each other, talk about what they mean, and see if you can memorize your favorites. Then have a contest to see who can write the goofiest poem.
Stories and poems can make reading fun, but having a good time doing math can be a bit more of a challenge. If you’re creative, though, you can find all kinds of ways that we use math to do fun things. Bake some cookies, and let your child read the recipe and measure the ingredients. Ask them to calculate how long it will take you to get to your vacation or other destination. Have them figure out what size jar of their favorite peanut butter is the better buy. Do an art project together where measuring and counting are needed. Let your child’s interests guide you to the kind of activity that will make math fun.
Summer is a great time to visit a learning destination together. Children’s museums are specially designed to make learning fun and engaging for kids and lets them practice essential skills. Our area has many museums where children can practice their reading skills, learning about everything from dinosaurs to space flight to local history. Or just take a stroll together on one of our many nature trails, where your children can use their reading skills to learn about the plants, animals and geology around them. And of course, don’t forget the special programs offered by many local public libraries, along with many other learning resources for kids of all ages.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s BadgerLink, Wisconsin’s online library, has a wealth of online learning resources that will help your kids avoid summer slide. Just go to badgerlink.dpi.wi.gov and search for “Prevent Summer Learning Loss.” With a little creativity, you can have a great time with your kids and help them have a strong start to the new school year.