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Local Antidotes for "Summer Learning Loss"

Educators, librarians, and others offer ways to stem the leakage of learning from kids' brains over the summer.

Classes end at noon Thursday for students in West Contra Costa Unified schools and won’t resume until Aug. 23, but educators are hoping students won’t completely set aside learning over the summer break.

Mindful of data showing students can experience significant backsliding on skills over the summer, the West Contra Costa Unified School District, boosted by extra efforts by individual schools and teachers, is making a pitch for students to continue reading and other academic activities during the break.  

Many other organizations like the county library system, Lawrence Hall of Science, and regional parks like Tilden in Berkeley also offer programs to encourage summer learning.

In his monthly message for June,  Superintendent Bruce Harter writes, “While we'll be able to serve maybe 1/5 of our students in various summer programs that add another 25 days, that falls far short of what’s really needed. The lack of summer school for all children and young people is the cause of one of the greatest learning roadblocks of childhood – summer learning loss.”

Harter offers several suggestions, including having kids read and be read to even into middle school, and encouraging child care providers and older siblings to read to children.

He also recommends parents “find math everywhere” including in the kitchen and the store, and “launch a child into the world of science simply by responding to a question with a question: ‘How could we find out about this?’ and encouraging young people to make and test predictions.

The summer learning message is echoed in the Summer Activity Guide that the district is distributing in hard copy and on its website.

The guide includes information on summer learning opportunities offered by other organizations like the Contra Costa County Library system, which is offering “One World, Many Stories,” June 11 through August 20 with different programs for everyone from babies to adults and featuring recommended reading lists, special events, and incentive prizes.

In a new program started this year, is sending students home with a colorful bag labeled "Kensington Never Stops Reading,” which contains at least one book and other items such as a bookmark and calendar where students can keep track of their summer reading. The goal of the program is for every child to read at least 20 minutes a day.

Valerie Snider June 08, 2011 at 08:35 PM
I am skeptical of data that shows that "students can experience significant backsliding on skills over the summer." When I was in school, summer break lasted three full months. Summer was for sleeping late, reading for pleasure, hanging out with friends, day dreaming, bike riding - whatever we kids felt like doing. It was a glorious feeling and I hate to see kids miss out on that part of childhood. I think I learned a lot during those unstructured summers. I guess it's the type of learning that isn't reflected on standardized tests.
Betty Buginas June 09, 2011 at 02:07 AM
The reading for pleasure you mention is exactly what most educators and librarians hope is happening as well as informal learning that enhances math and science skills. Not everyone has those experiences and the difference is obvious when children return to school in the fall.

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