When Whitney Hamilton looks back on her days as a teacher, she remembers a stark divide between the students who kept sharpening their minds over the summer and those who didn’t.
Students with resources, such as an abundance of books in their homes, returned to school in the fall “ready to dig back into the learning,” she said.
Then there were the students who didn’t have those learning experiences – students who actually started off the school year behind due to a phenomenon called summer slide. That’s when students forget over the summer the skills and content they mastered during the previous school year.
Now an elementary literacy consultant with the Kentucky Department of Education, Hamilton recommends parents take simple steps to reduce summer slide. Research shows, according to the department, that students on average lose two months of mathematics and reading learning during summer vacation.
“Learning can happen very authentically,” Hamilton said, stressing strategies that parents can adopt and use at home.
Erin Chavez, an elementary math consultant with the department, shares that view. Like Hamilton, she’s also a former teacher and recommends parents “think about mathematics in daily life” and convey math concepts through games and grocery store trips, not “drill and kill” worksheets.
Through social media, the department has been encouraging students to “stride, don’t slide” and sharing online resources parents can use to help their children stay engaged during the summer months.
One of the best strategies parents can use to help keep their child’s reading skills sharp, Hamilton said, is to make daily reading a priority. She recommends children get at least 20 minutes of reading daily, and that parents read with their children. Kids can also progress their writing skills by keeping a journal of how they spent their days, Hamilton said.
Public libraries are great resources for not only books, but summer programs that promote reading, Hamilton added. A directory of local public libraries is available online at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.
Summer Celebration, a summer reading program provided by the Warren County Public Library, kicks off June 6 with an event scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon at the National Corvette Museum. More information is available at warrenpl.org/summer.
When it comes to helping kids build math skills over the summer, Chavez said the best approach is to make everyday experiences learning opportunities. Cooking and following a recipe in the kitchen gives kids a chance to get comfortable with fractions, and calculating a grocery bill helps them develop money skills.
The Kentucky Department of Education recommends How to Learn Math, a free online course for learners of all skill levels available at youcubed.org under the courses heading.
Even with a summer packed with learning, Hamilton said there will probably always be a need for some review once school starts back. But with a little work, parents can smooth out that transition for students.
“I think we reduce that time when the brain has been stimulated appropriately during the summer months,” Hamilton said.