Summer Learning Loss Can Be Prevented

Summer learning loss, also called summer reading loss or summer slide, is the cold reality that some children start a new school year further behind than when they left for summer vacation.

Numerous studies suggest that it is the economically disadvantaged children who suffer the most and that "summer slump" is responsible for their falling further and further behind their more privileged counterparts.

This loss of ground appears to be cumulative, too. According to recent statistics, the gap continues to widen every year these children are in school.

So what can we as teachers do about it?

How Teachers Can Help Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Teachers have an obligation to educate parents and raise their awareness of the importance of providing some sort of learning activities for children during the summer months. This must be done near the end of the school year when stress levels are high and energy levels are low. But it must be done!

Many classes hold award ceremonies and graduations at the end of the year, and these are perfect opportunities to speak with parents and educate them about learning activities which can help prevent summer learning loss.

Summer Learning Activities for Families


Local libraries are wonderful about providing these programs during the summer. Find out about those in your area and create a handout to give to parents with all the information they need. Making it as convenient as possible for them may encourage them to follow up - and sign up!

Some schools develop their own summer reading programs. Summer reading lists are great, but in our program we felt that sending children home with a book was a great way to jump start summer reading.


Our vision for our school to help stave off summer learning loss was that every rising second through sixth grader take home a book to read for the summer. Upon returning to school in the fall he/she would return the book and participate in activities related to the book and also to the Standard Course of Study for his/her new grade.

We were unable to fund the full project the first year so we began in grades 2 and 3, then added a grade level every year thereafter until all grades were included.

Teachers at each grade level chose a book for students to read during the summer, and copies for every child were purchased. As the reading specialist, I developed activities and planned grade level Big Events for students when they returned to school in the fall.

We did not test children on the book, and we did not penalize those who had not read it during the summer. Some teachers reread the book with the entire class, and some provided time to read for those who had not yet finished it.

There was also no penalty for children who did not return books. We felt that any book placed in a home was a good thing and decided from the beginning that we would just replenish our supply each year and not worry about it.

Big Events

The Big Event for each grade level did not occur until school had been underway for at least two weeks. This gave everyone an opportunity to finish reading the book. We felt it was very important that everything about the experience be positive.

We kept the Big Events secret and told children there was to be a "big surprise" when they all finished reading the book. The Events were carefully chosen and planned so that children could experience things they had not experienced before (and hopefully grow some dendrites in the process!)

When fourth grade teachers chose Mystery at the Biltmore House we took students there to visit. When third graders read Tonight on the Titanic, we arranged for them to visit the planetarium at a nearby college and see the sky as it looked the night the ship sank since stars and constellations appear on their Standard Course of Study.

Second grade teachers chose Poppleton, the story of a pig, so we had a beauty contest with each class dressing a baby pig. (No piglets were harmed during this activity, though I am not sure I can say the same for my husband and me. Those babies are stronger than they look!)

This gave us an opportunity to have a conversation about caring for and being kind to animals, also one of their objectives for the year.


Recreation departments typically offer programs and day camps for community kids at a reasonable fee. Providing parents with these resources increases the chance that they will investigate them further to help prevent summer learning loss.


Many parents may not know that physical activity is related to reading. Certain coordination exercises help organize the brain for reading so parents should be informed and asked to encourage their children - especially those in grades K - 3 - to run, hop, skip, balance, and engage in outdoor play.

Particularly effective in helping reading fluency are skipping and jumping rope.

This handout, Who Knew? may be distributed to parents to help raise awareness that these skills are important to reading so that they may encourage these activities during the summer months.


Suggest that parents take children along on trips, even if it is just to the grocery store. Every trip can be an adventure, and time in the vehicle is the perfect opportunity to play word games and tell stories, both of which increase vocabulary.

Go to Summer Learning Activities for Parents from Summer Learning Loss
Go to Car Games from Summer Learning Loss

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For Parents

Car Games
Car games and activities can help children be successful in school this year. Among these fun learning games are rhyming games and memory games for children.

Benefits of Play
The benefits of play are many because for children, play and learning are one in the same. Certain types of play can help your children learn, so let the games begin!

Reading Together
Reading together is one of the best ways to help your child be successful when he/she returns to school in the fall. It is a great time to bond so snuggle up together with a good book!

Other suggestions

  • Have real conversations with your child about everything you see and do. Answer his/her questions—and ask some of your own.

  • Read to and with your child at every opportunity and talk about what you have read.

  • Point our words on signs and labels at home and in stores.

  • Encourage your child to play outdoors and to run, hop, skip, jump, and balance.

  • Sing and dance to music at every opportunity.

  • Clap in time to music.

  • See and do things you have not done before, then ask your child what he/she saw and did.

  • When watching movies or television programs together, pause them and ask your child to tell you what has happened and what he/she thinks will happen next. Discuss the meaning of unfamiliar words.