Summer learning loss

Summer is a wonderful time for kids. There is more play time, fewer schedules, and more time with family and friends. For kids, summer can be a carefree time and a chance to just be a kid.

It’s easy for children and their families to get caught up in the less disciplined routine of summer, but this can also be detrimental to the students’ academics when they return to school in the fall. Summer learning loss is a very real issue that plagues our children every year during the lazy days of summer. Often referred to as the “summer slide,” summer is a time of loss of important academic skills and knowledge.

Extensive research on the summer slide finds that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do at the beginning of summer unless their summer is enriched with educational opportunities.

Here are some startling facts about summer learning loss. On average:

• Students lose two months of reading skills and 2.6 months of math skills over the summer;

• Six weeks in the fall are spent re-learning old material to make up for summer learning loss;

• By the end of grade six, students who experience summer learning loss over their elementary school years, end up 2.5 years behind their peers; and

• Two-thirds of the achievement gap among high school students is attributable to summer learning loss in elementary school.

We know that every student loses math and writing skills when these skills are not practiced over the summer. When it comes to reading, the summer slide can be very detrimental to learning and it expands the achievement gap. The old saying: “Children learn to read up through third grade, then they read to learn from fourth grade on.” What this really means is that proficient reading is foundational to learning. Studies show that children who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade have approximately a 78 percent chance of never catching up and are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

But — all is not lost — there are simple ways to address summer learning loss, and United Way of Greater Fort Dodge is trying to help.

Our Joy of Reading and Little Free Libraries programs provide free books to both children and adults all year long. We especially encourage people to visit the Little Free Libraries throughout Fort Dodge, where people of all ages can “Take a Book, Leave a Book” any time they wish. Little Free Libraries can be found at the following locations:

• Crossroads Mall (in front of Book World),

• First Congregational Church/Williams Drive,

• Oleson Park,

• Snell Crawford Park,

• Cooper School,

• The Big Picture, 704 Central Ave.,

• Duncombe School,

• AEA Building,

• Hydro Electric Park,

• Kennedy Park,

• Hawley Lions Park,

• Riverside School and

• Residence at 836 N. 21st St.

Educators recommend that parents should make sure their children spend time reading and doing simple math each week. Research shows that two to three hours of reading and math per week during summer vacation is needed to prevent summer learning loss.

In fact, 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference. If a child reads for 20 minutes every day, they are exposed to about 1.8 million words of text every year, which equals better vocabulary, better writing skills and higher academic achievement. Plus, if families read together every day for 20 minutes, they get more than 121 hours of bonding time every year.

This coming Thursday, July 12, is National Summer Learning Day. The JoyMobile, started by the Joy of Reading program, will be around town providing free books to youths so all children can experience the joy and benefits of reading. The JoyMobile will be at the locations listed here. Please check the Joy of Reading Facebook Page for specific times that the JoyMobile will be at these locations.

• Monday, July 9 — Oleson Park Splash Pad

• Tuesday, July 10 — Movie theater

• Wednesday, July 11 — Crossway Church, 3058 10th Ave. N. and Movie on the Monster @ Webster County Fairgrounds

• Thursday, July 12 — Market on Central, Central Avenue

• Friday, July 13 — Webster County Fair

If children are unable to be at these locations, parents can call the Fort Dodge United Way office (573-3180) and request free books for their children.

Please join us and help our children make the most of their summer — lots of fun with friends and family combined with some reading and math so they will be ready for school this fall.

Jenn Kersten Becker is a Butler Elementary School teacher and JoyMobile coordinator. Amy Kersten Brunois program coordinator, United Way of Greater Fort Dodge.