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Stop the Summer Brain Drain Before It Starts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2013

With summer break just around the corner, it's time for parents to think about how to minimize summer brain drain, said a University of Illinois Extension family life educator.

"An old adage says: If you don't use it, you'll lose it. And that's true for school-aged children," said Chelsey Byers.

Learning loss during summer vacation is nothing new. Teachers and researchers alike have reported that children 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. But the most affected area may be math, she said.

"Kids can lose up to two and a half months' worth of math skills when those skills are not used," she said.

Instead of letting your kids slide backward, think of summer break as a time to make gains through engagement in local programs offered through libraries, park districts, and summer camps, she advised.

Research shows that the achievement gap often widens during the summer. But enrichment programs and life experiences can combat loss and even increase children's skill levels before heading back to school, she said.

Year after year, these losses can really add up for a child, Byers said.

Reading programs through local libraries and camps encourage summer learning, but math is often not addressed by summer programs, she noted.

"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 and have your children decide how much a meal will cost at a restaurant," she said.

Yes, summer is a time for fun, rest, and relaxation, but it won't hurt to have your child spend a small amount of time each day on some enrichment activity to help lessen their summer brain drain, she said.

"In doing so, you are helping them create a love of lifetime learning. I can speak from experience—as a child, my mom had my brother and me work through activity books a little bit each day throughout the summer to help better prepare us for the next school year," she said.

"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," she added.

Source: Chelsey Byers, Extension Educator, Family Life, clbyers@uiuc.edu