by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent

Summer break is rapidly approaching as we wind down the final weeks of the 2022-23 school year. For many students, summer is a time to unwind and take a well-deserved break from learning.

However, research suggests that the summer months are a critical time for learning, and that students who engage in educational activities are more likely to achieve academic success the following school year. In fact, the National Summer Learning Association found that students can lose up to two months of reading and math skills over the summer, and it takes time for them to catch up.

Additionally, a study conducted by RAND found that students who participated in formal summer learning programs had higher math and reading scores than peers who did not participate in such programs. The study also found that students who participated in summer learning programs had better attendance records and were likely to graduate from high school.

Summer is an ideal time to help our children discover their natural abilities, satisfy their curiosities, and expand their capacities to learn. Without the constraints of a busy school day, children can stay engaged in exploring new interests and expanding their horizons. Students can discover worlds previously unknown and foster new and lasting relationships. These activities can be fun and rewarding, and reinforce the idea that learning is indeed a lifelong endeavor.

There are many simple and fun activities that families can engage in that can support learning, both at home and even on the road. There are formal, structured programs and activities available through local school districts and other community organizations. There are also summer camps that can be both fun and educational. However, learning does not have to be formal. There are many free or affordable ways to help your children retain their knowledge and refine the skills needed to be successful now and in the future.

Trips to museums and public libraries allow children ways to experience and apply what has been learned in school. Visits to galleries, concerts and performances give students the chance to explore the arts by observing and even participating in them.

Parks and historical landmarks are portals into the fields of ecology, history, and geography, to name a few. From observing different types of animals and plant life to exploring ancient artifacts, civilizations or geologic formations, students love field trips. Locally we are endowed with a wide variety of easily accessible cultural, historical, and recreational resources that can make summer learning an unforgettable experience.

Summer also presents opportunities for students to interact with their community in meaningful ways – doing volunteer work that instills civic responsibility, sound values and strong character.

Reading remains one of the important summer learning activities. Encouraging your child to read for pleasure can help them maintain their skills and interest. Parents can also read to young children and ask questions about what they are hearing or seeing.

Writing is also another important skill that can be maintained and refined over the summer. Parents can encourage children to write letters to family members or keep a journal to practice their skills.

Parents can help their child’s math skills through board or strategy games that involve counting or problem-solving. Math can also be incorporated into everyday activities such as measuring ingredients during cooking, calculating a tip at a restaurant, or using subtractions to figure out the time or distance to a family trip.

There are also educational apps and websites available to support your child’s learning. For example, Duolingo is a language-learning app that can help children maintain or hone their language skills. Khan Academy also has a host of resources available. I encourage you to do a search based on your child’s grade, needs, or interests.

As the thermometer soars, so do the stakes in education. Incorporating learning into everyday activities, providing opportunities for children to explore their interests, or signing them up for activities can help promote lifelong learning and prevent summer learning loss. All of us – families, schools, and communities – have a responsibility to ensure that a vacation from school is not a vacation from learning!

This column appeared in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers.

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