By Giani Clarkson

Championships are built in the off-season. 

Well, the final school bell has rang for many students nationwide, and lockers were slammed closed one last time. Students will run toward yellow school buses and car doors at the speed of a comic book superhero. Summertime has begun, and so does the mental desert known as “learning loss.” 

Research from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) shows that concerns about summer learning loss date back over a century and have been a long-time concern for teachers and parents. Many teachers have even stated that they spend much of the first weeks of school reviewing content from their new students’ previous grades. Learning lost is a real thing where students have lost points in their Lexile score and scored lower on standardized math tests after returning to school from summer break. In addition, research has shown that students who are in lower socioeconomic areas of major cities suffer from the largest learning losses. 

Learning loss is attributed to a couple of major factors. One of the major factors is screen time increases over the summer. This screen time can be found in computer games, video games, and even increased time on the cellphone. Recent research has shown that students between the ages of 7 to 17 have an increase in summertime screen use that is up to 750%. Very rarely are any of the activities that are connected to a screen paired with anything educational.

Another factor is that summer reading lists are given out to students but rarely are followed by students or parents. Many parents in a survey admitted that they do not look at the school’s summer reading list because they find it unnecessary or not important enough to invest in. However, these reading lists are important for students to take advantage of because it helps with introducing younger scholars to different vocabulary words and older scholars to literary concepts that can help with writing and higher scores on the SAT. 

I remember as a kid, my father made me read the newspaper during the summertime and have a written summary prepared by the time he came home from work. I was so angry at my father because I wanted to do some high-class nothing during the summer. My friends were outside having the time of their lives, but I was sitting in front of the newspaper reading about the Gulf War. My evenings during the summer were spent watching Jeopardy! at 7:30 PM with my father. He would answer almost every question right and I asked him one day: “How did he know all of these answers?”. He laughed and said, “Never be afraid to learn a little about a lot.” This inspired me immensely. My father was ahead of the curve, and I love him for that and many other reasons. I did not realize that my father was preparing me for the next school year. Writing is a skill that has come easy to me because I was able to practice with my father; however, many students do not grow up with a father like mine.  

So how do you prevent this learning loss as a parent? It is all about the off-season plan. 

Step 1.) The exit interview will set the road map

Before you go on any road summer trip, you usually review the map to ensure you are headed in the right direction …well the best person to help your scholar set their map for summer learning is your scholars’ teachers. Before the summer ends, schedule an exit interview to discuss the pluses and areas of growth for your scholar for this upcoming school year. You should be able to talk to each of your scholars’ core teachers to find out what they should work on to be prepared for the next school year. Your scholars’ teachers have the largest sample size of date from the beginning of the school year to its endpoint. The goal is to take time during the summer to properly plan the road map and work on the various set skills your scholar may need help with for the next grade level. If your scholar is more advanced, take the time during the summer to introduce some new skills before the new school year starts.

Step 2.) Get Rich over the Summer 

Summer enrichment is not just about doing things connected to academics but also about your scholar exploring their interest. Whether it is photography, theater, culinary arts, sports, or foreign languages, allow your scholars to invest in their interests. Sometimes enrichment camps can be costly but consider city camps or enrichment activities at local community colleges. If not, consider looking into online camps that offer students the chance to participate in home enrichment activities. One amazing resource is Brain Chase. For a nominal fee, Brain Chase offers students the opportunity to participate in weekly challenges, competitions with other students across the country, and planned monthly activities. Enrichment is a building skill that helps students find out their interests and in long-term planning, assists students with selecting a major in college later in life. 

Step 3.) Family Book Club

 During the school year, students are often forced to read material they have little interest in. The books may be classics for some of us however, for some of our students, the classics are boring. By creating a summer family book club, your scholar can select a book that they are interested in, and everyone can read it as a family. Your family can schedule weekly meetings to discuss the book and what they think will happen next. You can take the time to discuss themes, characters, and the falling action of the book in your book club meetings. This helps your students create skills to draw inferences. This is a very important skill when it comes to reading comprehension. It is a phenomenal way to sneak in building up Lexile scores and scheduling family time throughout the week. 

Summer enrichment is paramount to your scholars’ success. The off-season is truly where championships are built, and you can build a winning school year by building skills in providing quality enrichment. Research has shown us that no matter what age of your scholar, they all suffer from learning loss. Be proactive and get your scholar ahead of the game so they can be ahead of the class next year.