Summer break means a vacation for kids and parents from nightly homework, required reading and rushed mornings getting ready for school. But extended time away from the classroom does have a downside.
Decades of research shows that all children, no matter how well they do in school, can lose some of their hard-earned knowledge over the summer, particularly when it comes to math, where most students lose about two months of skills if not engaged academically. The summer slide is especially detrimental for kids in low-resource areas, who often struggle to have basic needs met over break, and can slip an average of two months behind in reading as well.
Matthew Boulay, founder and interim CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, encourages parents to talk to their child’s teacher before break for any suggestions they have on what to address over vacation, and to also ask their child about what they’d like to learn.
“We’re not talking about overwhelming your family with more schoolwork,” he says. “Learning in the summer is about finding new and fun ways to engage your children while keeping up those good habits you’ve set during the school year, like reading together and limiting screen time.”
Here are a few area programs and at-home ideas to keep kids sharp during summer vacation.
READING AND WRITING
Shake off the required reading lists of the school year by taking a deep dive into the topics your kids love. A Google search can help you find books and magazines to match even the most obscure interests, and library staff can help you track down resources locally.
Summer reading programs are also a great way to keep kids engaged over break.
- Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County: Take a Summer Adventure with this year’s newly expanded summer reading program, running June 1 through July 29. Register at any branch to receive an Adventure Kit, including a free book and a voucher for a free view level ticket to a Cincinnati Reds game, and then read and explore to earn points. Each week will have a theme, such as science, community and the arts, with corresponding book and activity suggestions. More info: www.cincinnatilibrary.org/summeradventure
- Campbell County Public Library: The Summer Reading Program, with the theme of Build a Better World, encourages kids, teens and adults to earn prizes for reading. Enjoy more than 20 programs for young children each week, family events and movies, plus fun educational programs for elementary kids and teens. Don’t miss Jolly Thursdays – great weekly events at 10 am every Thursday in June and July at A.J. Jolly Park in Alexandria. More info: www.cc-pl.org/summer-reading.
- Kenton County Public Library: Escape the Ordinary with the Summer Reading Club, which runs June 1 through Aug. 31. Kids, teens and adults can log the books and magazines they read or listen to over the summer and earn prizes – from t-shirts for the youngest readers to tech toys for the teens. More info: www.kentonlibrary.org/src
For those who need more structure, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Summer Camp Reading offers four weeks of intensive one-on-one tutoring designed to improve the reading skills of third-graders. More info: www.cincinnatilibrary.org/summeradventure/summercampread
Practicing math problems over the summer is no one’s idea of fun. Fortunately, there are ways you can help keep your kids’ skills sharp without opening a textbook.
Mathnasium (www.mathnasium.com) centers in Blue Ash, Mason and West Chester offer game-filled summer programs aimed at helping kids make math progress over the summer, while the Kumon Math Program takes just 30 minutes a day, split between the center and home (www.kumon.com/math-program).
As a family, cook together to figure out fractions and measurement conversions, or set up a family store where kids can buy and sell to learn about currency. Give older kids the chance to tally the tip at dinners out or budget a family vacation. Also consider apps that hone math skills, such as Operation Math, Mathmateer and Bedtime Math.
From weather and space, to nature and robotics, science covers so much ground that every kid can find something of interest. Give your children the chance to experiment more in the summer months, from melting ice cubes to playing with magnets or taking a hike, and supplement what you know with books, websites and educational apps.
Have a kid interested in STEM subjects? Camp Invention (campinvention.org) offers hands-on activities on topics such as circuitry, robotics and coding, while Classroom Antics Tech Camps (www.classroomantics.com/cincinnati-ohio) focuses on stop-motion animation, coding and even LEGO robots. Check out the Cincinnati Museum Center’s (www.cincymuseum.org/content/summer-camps-2017) wide array of STEM-based camps on everything from space to dinosaurs and Harry Potter’s spells, and find the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Brain Camp closest to you (www.cincinnatilibrary.org/summeradventure/braincamps).
Not only are kids at risk of losing academic knowledge over the summer, studies show that they tend to gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school. Experts urge parents to keep control of screen time and find opportunities for daily fitness, such as trips to the playground or biking around the neighborhood. Explore more structured programs at the YMCA (www.cincinnatiymca.org), Boys and Girls Clubs (www.bgcgc.org) and your local parks department. There are also a plethora of sport-specific camps – the University of Cincinnati (www.uc.edu/summer/High-School-Students.html) hosts camps covering several sports, while the Cincinnati Reds offer baseball and softball camps (http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/community/camps/).
The key to avoiding summer learning loss is getting kids engaged, active and thinking critically – and it doesn’t have to feel like school. With a few ideas in place that appeal to your child, you can keep those academic juices flowing and get next school year off to a great start.