Educators Suggest Ways for Children to Avoid Summer Learning Loss

Monday, June 15, 2009

Staff writer Valerie Strauss asked educators how kids can avoid summer learning loss.

Jill Biden

Adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College (and vice-presidential spouse)

As an English teacher, I always recommend reading as a great way to engage your mind and your imagination. Another way to stay active is through service -- it's amazing how much you can learn by helping a neighbor or volunteering in your community.

Michelle A. Rhee

D.C. schools chancellor

As a mother and a school administrator, I believe parents should do their best to strike the right balance between academic enrichment and summer vacation. While some families have the means, whether financial or otherwise, to offer their children a variety of activities, it is important to remember that summer school is not the only option for summer learning.

D.C. [public school] parents have done everything from [offering] students incentives for reading a certain number of child-selected books; extended hiking trips with hands-on learning about fish and wildlife; summer internships in high school; science, basketball and soccer camps; [and] children's games counting fish in a creek, learning to distinguish salamanders from crayfish. The best ideas all had something to teach -- because children are curious, and child's play is the most meaningful gateway to learning that we have.

Mark Lewis

Reading teacher, John Eaton Elementary School in the District

In my experience, the area that suffers the most from summer inactivity is writing. Writing is a lot like exercise; the more you do it, the easier it is to do. Conversely, many children come back to school in the fall completely out of writing shape, and it often takes up to a month to get their writing level up to where it was in June. My prescription for helping your child maintain their writing ability throughout the summer is to carve out a daily 20-minute family writing period where everyone in the house has to write. Everyone has their own journal and complete control over what they are writing: poetry, prose, lyrics -- anything goes. The key is that everyone has to be writing and that nothing your child writes will be corrected.

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