Tips for parents to keep kids learning over the summer

Thursday, July 14 has been declared National Summer Learning Day by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to highlight the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy during the summer.

It is well documented that all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational and enrichment activities during the summer months. According to the NSLA, low-income students are disproportionately at risk of losing academic skills during the summer school vacation.

There are 20 to 25 providers of summer learning in Norwalk, serving roughly 3,500 of the 14,000 Norwalk children ages 3-18, according to Norwalk ACTS, a membership organization with more than 100 educators, and civic, business and community leaders working to improving the lives of all Norwalk children. Norwalk ACTS has begun a multi-year initiative to engage more children in quality programming during the summer months.

“We know that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be attributed to unequal access to summer opportunities,” says Anthony Allison, Executive Director of Norwalk ACTS. “Engaging students in high-quality summer academic and enrichment programs has the potential to stop this disproportionate and cumulative summer loss and to propel all students to higher achievement.”

Research also shows that the more active children are during the summer months, the more likely they are to remember things they learned in school the previous year. Below are some suggestions parents can use to make the most of their children’s summer vacation time:

• Visit the library and give your children a choice of hundreds of free books to read. In addition to having reading lists for children of all ages, the public library offers a summer reading program with weekly activities and incentives to encourage children to read.

• Encourage children to keep journals of their summer activities or to write stories. Even young children who may not know how to write well can still keep a journal or write a story of their own. Have them dictate their stories to you and you write it down for them, or help them with writing it. Have them draw pictures to illustrate their stories or journals.

• Math may seem like a tougher subject to review over the summer, but math skills are used by everyone in daily life. Parents can help younger children review basic math concepts like counting, addition and subtraction during typical daily activities. Older children can help parents pay for items and count the change at the grocery store, or do the family’s banking.

• Take educational trips to parks, the zoo or the museum. Another idea is to use the internet to learn. Many museum websites have online exhibits that help children learn about many different things, from art to zoology.

• Children can learn a lot from just going outside. Go to a local park or on a hike, and talk about the different plants and how they grow, and point out the different insects you see. If your park has a stream, look at underwater life.

• Academics are not the only things that contribute to children’s learning and development. Creativity and expression are also a part of learning. Get some crayons and draw together, or sign your child up for summer art or drama camp. For musical activities, listen to music, play some of your favorite songs with your children, make up your own songs, learn how to play a musical instrument.

• Summers are great for informal learning as well. If kids are interested in animals or cars, expose them to as much as possible to allow them to become real experts at their hobbies.

• As always, it is important to make sure your children get some time outside for free play – whether it is running around in the backyard or a day at the beach. Children need movement and fresh air to develop properly.

Keeping children engaged and learning throughout the summer months will help them retain their academic skills, and they will be more successful in the classroom when school begins again in August.

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