The Summer Slide

If you have school aged kids, you’ve likely heard of the dreaded Summer Slide. It’s a term that was coined years ago. Basically, it refers to the academic regression that may occur between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. Do kids retain the information they learned in the previous year so they are ready for the next year? If not, what can we as parents, caretakers and professionals do to help them out over the summer?

As we move into the last month of summer, I thought we might discuss the Summer Slide. We’re now well into the summer, and although I don’t want to harsh your summer vibe, school, for some, is merely 2-3 weeks away. So, let’s talk about this ‘slide’. Is it something we should be concerned about?

What is the Summer Slide?

Some of you may be sitting here reading this blog and saying, “Dr. Lisa, let kids be kids. Summer is important and they need a break”. And I could not agree with you more. However, the Summer Slide is a real thing. It has been researched and statistics have shown that students that do not attend school for the summer months often lose some of the educational gains they made in the previous school year.

Do you remember when you were in elementary school? The first couple of weeks, if not months, were often spent reviewing or even reteaching the same material that you had learned the previous year.

Why did they do this?

Well, statistics going back to 1996 have demonstrated that in some children (typically younger kids and those growing up in a lower socioeconomic class) the summer achievement loss due to not being in school could equal as much as one month of grade-level regression. More recent studies (2018) have shown that educational regression could equal about 20% in reading and 27% math.

So, think about it like this: it’s possible that the material taught in the last month of school may not be retained…and there’s a high probability that this information will need to be retaught at the beginning of the next year.

Does the Summer Slide affect Everyone?

Simply put, No. It doesn’t.

But think about learning in general. When you learn something, you do work to retain that information, right? Kids are first taught a lesson in school. Then they are given practice work to complete at school and then homework in an attempt to adhere to the concept of ‘practice makes perfect’. Now of course no one is perfect, but the idea that practice helps us retain information is true.

Typically learning is done in a scaffolding process. Can you picture a scaffold? One level is built upon the next. The same is true in education. You learn the basic concept first and then more complex ones are taught on top of that original basic concept. You learn addition before you learn subtraction and then multiplication and division.

So what can you do?

I am not, I repeat NOT recommending that everyone abandon summer fun and put your kids into educational classes or tutoring so that they don’t fall behind. However, it may not hurt to throw a little reading and math into the mix this summer.

Fun Recommendations

  • Read whatever you and your child want to read.
    • Read together. Is the book a little too advanced for your child? That’s ok. Read it with them. Don’t want to read a book…that’s fine too. Choose a nature magazine or graphic novel. Simply put, just read.
  • Cook or bake together.
    • Following directions is a great way to engage kids in an activity that works on executive functioning, math (maybe cut a recipe in half or double it) and reading.
  • Participate in activities outside.
    • Go for walks around your neighborhood or hikes in nature. Talk about the different types of trees, animals, insects that you see.
  • Have some ‘educational’ iPad time.
    • Download an app that works on reading or math skills in a fun way… you kid sees it as a fun game that lets them use the iPad!
  • Watch sporting events.
    • Sports are a great way to engage your child in math without them really thinking about it. Teach them about baseball statistics. Or how the scores work in basketball; a 2-pointer vs. a 3-pointer.
  • Have a board game night.
    • Break out the oldies like Scrabble, Monopoly, Candy Land or Yahtzee. There are numerous opportunities to read and engage in math while playing these games.
  • Join your local library.
    • Libraries often create wonderful programs for kids over the summer that engage a child in reading. They frequently offer badges or certificates at the end of the summer for your child’s participation. And what kid doesn’t love acknowledgment for reaching a goal!

Your child doesn’t have to be in school to be learning. We all learned that through COVID didn’t we? The basic idea is to keep learning all summer long, but in fun ways. 😉


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