As the old saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” And over the summer, kids from every grade level stop actively learning, losing a good bit of what they’ve absorbed during the school year.
What is Summer Slide?
Summer slide refers to the loss of learning that takes place when school breaks and isn't in session.
“Summer slide,” “brain drain,” and “summer learning loss” all describe the phenomenon, and occurs when students “turn off their brains” during the summer months. "Learning loss" is the general umbrella term, of course, but it can attach itself to any specific discipline, like "summer reading loss," etc.
And in case you missed our previous post on how to prevent learning loss, consider this post the prequel.
It might even look like a horror movie, as the statistics can be pretty frightening.
The good news is, parents who understand what summer slide is and address it early on - as in, during elementary school years - have found that students perform better in the long run—developing outstanding learning habits that carry through on to high school and college.
Here are 12 facts and statistics you should know about summer slide.
1. It All Adds Up
How much could possibly be lost in a summer? Research indicates 2 months of reading skills and 2 1/2 months of math skills are lost over a single summer. Plus, summer slide is cumulative, so those lost months add up over time.
Combined over the years, by the time a student reaches middle school, they’ve lost the equivalent of 2 years of learning to summer slide. And the loss is greater at higher grade levels.
2. Playing Catch Up
According to this mention from Expanding Learning, a survey said that 66% of teachers report that it typically takes them 3-4 weeks to reteach the previous year's skills at the beginning of the school year (and 24% said they spend 5-6 weeks.
While schools may stop teaching in the summer, the learning doesn’t have to come to a halt.
Having direct access to books can significantly help students reduce brain drain, beat summer slide, and retain information from the school year.
3. Reading is Fun (Bonus: 4 Easy Ways to Get Kids Reading)
It’s a fact—reading can be fun. Kids just sometimes need a little kick starter.
Here’s how to fit in more reading time while making it more enjoyable for your kids:
Take books with you on summer trips and vacations. With nowhere else to turn, books can be a welcome source of entertainment.
Take kids to the library regularly. Over time, trips to the library can turn into anticipated activities, allowing kids to look forward to their next book selection.
Join a book club or other book subscription service and let kids choose their books. Speaking of selection per the point above, 92% of kids surveyed said they are more likely to read a book they selected themselves.
Introduce a child to a popular book series (like Harry Potter). Doing so gets them engaged and wanting to keep turning pages, and encourages them to revisit books more often.
4. Make a Commitment to Constant Learning
Not only is it great to have parents at home who can read to kids and model good reading behavior and habits, but maintaining a large book collection at home has a bigger impact on kids’ reading and education than household income.
In fact, low income households with access to books over the summer see better and more significant improvement in reading scores from spring to fall than students from high-income households, who also have access to books.
5. Reading More Improves Comprehension
Children who read four or more books over a summer perform better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who don’t—regardless of household income level.
6. Books are Powerful
3rd graders who can’t read at their grade level are FOUR TIMES less likely to graduate by age 18 versus a proficient 3rd grade reader.
7. Tech Can be Timely
Educators and researchers have found that board games, eBooks, mobile apps, and other digital engagement can make reading more interactive and fun. (Here are some other benefits of technology for children.)
At home during the summer, make sure to pick materials within your child’s age range or slightly above. Kids will read up, but never read down.
8. The First Step is Knowing
Only 48% of parents (with children ages 6-17) have heard of summer slide, while just 38% of lower-income parents have heard of it. Only 9.2% of students attend a summer learning programming to combat summer slide.
9. One is the Loneliest Number
One month of learning is effectively lost to the summer. Summer slide or learning loss can be recognized as early as grade one.
10. Summer Slide Costs Kids—And The Educational System
According to estimates, it costs the educational system more than $1,500 per student to reteach materials. Over the course of a K-12 education, that can equate to more than $18,000 per student.
11. Reversing Hard Work
Found on SheKnows.com, of kids in third through fifth grades, a recent study by the Northwest Evaluation Association revealed that, on average, students lose about 20% of their reading gains, and about 27% of their math gains.
12. Maintain and Gain is a Possibility
As mentioned in this article from Prodigy, some studies suggest that "most children will maintain their knowledge over the summer, and some will even gain more knowledge." There are, though, a number of factors that can impact results, such as available summer learning opportunities, time spent out of school, grade levels, and more.
Preventing Summer Slide—What You Can Do
Parents want their kids to succeed, but even the best intentions aren’t always met with acceptance. How many times last summer did your kid give you grief when you asked them to “stop watching TV and go outside,” or “quit texting and read a book?”
In reality, combating summer slide isn’t as hard as you think. Experts suggest the best way is just to keep your kids active and up off the couch. Find fun activities that keep their minds engaged. This will encourage them to return to the activity and repeat it. Students do get overwhelmed, though—the key is keeping them from completely checking out.
STEM camps like iD Tech not only keep kids active but challenge them and get them thinking about the bigger picture; i.e. what are they going to do after high school and college.
Get your kids active and thinking when out of school—that’s a great way to beat summer slide.