Ever since I can remember I’ve anticipated the arrival of summer break. I remember creating countdowns to the first week of June and making ambitious bucket-lists with all of my summer plans. As great as my summers always were, I vividly remember completing “Summer Bridge Activities” workbooks and summer reading program through my local library. To my dismay, my parents would purchase these workbooks for my brother and me based upon the grade we were entering and assign us pages to complete each day. At the time I thought it was silly that we were practicing math and reading comprehension during the summer months, but looking back, learning throughout the summer (or at least maintaining previously learned concepts) is critical.
According to a study done by Harris Cooper and Barbra Nye titled “The Effects of Sumer Vacation on Achievement Scores,” a 13 study analysis was done on summer learning loss that was primarily focused on grades 1-9. This study determined that the average test scores in the fall were about one-tenth of a standard deviation below the spring average. In simpler terms, when the number of instruction months are taken into account, this equates to an average of about one month of instruction that is lost between the spring and the fall.
There are cumulative effects on this summer learning loss as well. Unfortunately, there is a difference when looking at these results from the perspective of both low and high income areas. Due to an expected advantage in resources, children who are in higher-income areas tend to maintain skills whereas it is common to see children in low-income areas falling farther behind. This is especially prominent in terms of reading skills, comprehension, and attention to literacy activities. In contrast, summer learning programs with small class sizes, involved teachers, “aligned school-year and summer curricula”, engaging yet challenging teaching materials, and the component of parental involvement, proved to present a lesser decline in a student’s learning between spring and fall testing.
So what does this mean for summer plans? And what does this mean for students in low-income areas?
First of all, we can come to an agreement that summer programs (both physical or at-home programs) and reading have positive effects on a student’s academic achievement. The effectiveness of these programs and activities vary based upon the rigor of the program, level of motivation, and dedication towards summer learning. These programs can be costly and require a balance between time spent educating and the rejuvenating aspect of summer-break. For students of all grade levels, reading can be a great way to practice comprehension strategies and challenge your reading skills over the school-free summer months. According to the Home Room Blog of the U.S. Department of Education,
“Summer is an important time for students to keep reading and improve their language skills. If your child hasn’t been reading regularly this summer, they may be in danger of the “summer slide”—a decline in their reading ability.”
This summer learning and reading doesn’t have to consume a majority of the day, but it is a great time to dedicate a couple hours a week or even a small portion of each day completing these activities. This can be done through a variety of library programs or even incentive-based programs at home in order to encourage reading. Or maybe summer learning can be taken to an outdoor location or social setting in order to spice up the normal routine. In addition, there are many book-borrowing programs through local schools and public libraries along with grade-level practice resources that can be accessed for free online.
Looking back, I am appreciative for my Summer Bridge Activities workbooks and the reading that my parents encouraged during the summers of my childhood. As a college student, summer free time is a luxury and I am grateful for every opportunity that I have the time to read for leisure. I have learned to value the summer months and graciously dedicate a portion of my time to both educating and challenging my mind.