Summer typically evokes images of vacations and fun, but what many people don’t realize is that this fun-filled break is responsible for more than half of the achievement gaps between middle-income and lower-income children. I repeat: summer is responsible for more than half of all learning discrepancies among students. One 3 month “happy-times” break is what makes all the difference for students of different economic classes.
This short video highlights the shocking impact of summer time on the achievement gap between middle-income children and lower-income children:
Luckily, school's not out yet! Teachers still have the opportunity to give students and parents a few ideas for keeping students engaged in learning during the summer - especially when it comes to reading. You could even use one of these cute brochure templates to create a pamphlet to send home with your students. Here are a few ideas worth incorporating:
- Reward for Reading. Suggest that parents use a reward system based off of the number of pages their children read throughout the summer. Small prizes could be awarded weekly, medium prizes monthly, and a grand prize could be awarded at the end of the summer to keep kids reading. See how this mom came up with an ingenious reading program “by using the competitive spirit among siblings.”
- Plan for the Curriculum. Collaborate with the teachers who teach a year up from the grade you teach. Find out what students will be learning when they come back in the fall (Greek mythology or astronomy) and then let parents know so they can help their children get ahead by reading books on upcoming learning topics or by visiting museums and planetariums.
- Library Access. Here’s a simple one – encourage parents to get their children library cards so that they have free access to a multitude of books. Local libraries usually offer reading lists and sponsor reading contests as well.
- Natural Learning. Tell parents to take learning outside! Going on a hike provides plenty of opportunites for fun and learning. Suggest that families take pictures of flowers and other wildlife and then go home and find three interesting facts about each organism they photographed.
- Go to the Zoo. The zoo is a wonderful place that is already geared towards learning for children. Encourage parents to allow their children to identify the animals instead of pointing them out.
- Cook Up Some Ideas. Tell parents to make it a goal to cook with their kids a couple times a week (or more). Offer that they give the kids a little freedom and let them choose the recipes -- this will get them excited. Following a recipe is good practice for reading and comprehension, as well as for learning how to follow directions accurately. Kids could practice their writing and spelling skills by making a grocery list. Taking measurements could easily be turned into math practice, plus, it's great for bonding!
- Bargain Hunting. Thrift stores and yard sales always seem to be exciting for children, and parents can make hunting for cheap books an adventure!
- Math Worksheets. If you have the time to prepare one, give parents a small booklet of math worksheets so that they can easily have their children keep up on their math skills without taking too much time away from summer. You could also provide a list of websites with free printable math sheets and learning games.
- Put the "earn" in Learn. Suggest that parents consider implementing a small allowance for their children. They can offer a certain amount of money for tasks performed and then have their children add up what their total earnings are.
- Everyday, Read Together. This one is simple and yet so important -- remind parents to read with their children daily. Encouraging children to read autonomously and silently is important, but parents can also have their children read aloud to them. Parents should even read to their children so that the kids get the chance to hear the language. Even 15 minutes will make a world of difference.
- Create Simple Opportunities to Learn Something New. A great way to build vocabulary would be to display a "word of the day" on the fridge.
- Let them Lead. Remind parents to let the children be the leader of learning during the summer since they don't really get that control during the school year. Set up the activities and tell parents to encourage children to lead the way while they act as a gentle guide to nurture the knowledge. For more ideas on adventures in learning for families, check out Kids Off the Couch.