Extension Connection

Extension Connection

Stop the summer Brain Drain before it starts

Photo of Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker

Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker
Extension Educator, Family Life

There is that old adage that says, "If you don't use it, you'll lose it." I use this saying often when I am teaching adults about brain health and the importance of staying mentally engaged. The same is just as true for school-aged children. With summer break just around the corner it is time for parents to be thinking ahead for how to help minimize the summer brain drain or as some refer to it the summer slide or summer knowledge leak.

Summer vacations and learning loss is not a new phenomenon. Teachers and researchers alike have reported that kids do suffer a setback following the long summer break. Reading comprehension and fluency can take a hit if the kids are not reading during the summer. However, the most reported area affected is often math equaling up to two to two and a half months of lost skills when not used.

Instead of having the summer be a time where kids slide back, think of it as a time to make gains through engaging them in local programs offered through libraries, park districts, and summer camps. Life experiences and summer engagement can combat loss and even increase their skill levels before heading back to school. Richard Allington, an education professor from University of Texas said, "two-thirds of the achievement gap occurs during the summers, not during the school year." Year after year this really can add up for a child.

Reading programs through the local libraries and camps encourage summer learning, but math is often the subject least addressed by summer programs. Try to engage your children in reviewing the math skills they worked on this past school year by working simple math, word problems, or keeping track of how much items will cost on a shopping trip. Play games where math skills are used or have your children decide how much a meal will cost at a restaurant.

Yes, summer is a time for fun, rest, and relaxation, but it won't hurt to have your child work for a small amount of time each day on some enrichment activity to help lessen the summer brain drain. You are also helping them create a love of lifetime learning. I can speak from experience; as a child, my mom had my brother and me working through activity books a little each day throughout the summer in order to help better prepare us for the next school year. As a child, it wasn't my favorite thing, but I am thankful for it now and I can guarantee that I still had plenty of time to play.

For age appropriate online games, you can visit the National Education Association (NEA) website with a listing of games for school-aged children (K-8) http://www.neamb.com/professional-resources/beat-summer-brain-drain.htm. For more information about local University of Illinois Extension Camps and programs please visit our website http://web.extension.illinois.edu/CFIV/.

For more information on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Chelsey Byers at University of Illinois Extension at 217-333-7672 or at clbyers@illinois.edu.

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