A Black family reads together at the kitchen table: a woman and two young children look at an open book. The woman is pointing to something on the page.

5 Tips for Preventing Learning Loss During the Summer Break

June 5, 2023

School may be wrapping up for the year where you live, but just because there’s a pause on classroom learning, it doesn’t mean all learning needs to stop. For many students the gaps that exist from the past few years of the pandemic are still showing up both anecdotally and on national standardized test scores. Use the summer season to seize an opportunity! Below are five tips for preventing learning loss during the summer break.

Don’t Take an All or Nothing Approach

Black and white thinking isn’t helpful when it comes to learning. When you compartmentalize that learning happens at school and fun happens at home and there’s no mixing, you might forgo awesome opportunities to take advantage of extra learning and fun!

Teachers have likely spent the last nine months pouring academic and social learning into your child’s heart and mind. Think of how you, as a parent, might take the proverbial torch and carry it for the summer. You won’t do things exactly as your child’s teacher did and that’s okay. Figure out your approach as a parent and what your role as leader and learning facilitator might look like.

Make It Fun

Extending learning over the summer months should be fun– for you and your child. Finding ways to keep your child’s mind engaged shouldn’t feel like a job for you and the activities you select shouldn’t feel like drudgery to your child either. Download a favorite family audiobook for the summer vacation trip. Discuss the characters or the conflicts in the story. Have your older children read shorter picture books or board books to your younger children.

Let United Through Reading take some of the guesswork out of your planning with their Read Aloud Activity Calendar. (Reading aloud and doing activities with your children allows you to promote their reading and creative skills while having fun at the same time. These books and the links to their complementary activities are for pre-readers, beginning readers, and older readers.)

Build It Into Your Summer Routine

As parents, whether you are home with your children all day or they are in camps, activities, traveling, or with other caregivers it’s okay to admit that summer can sometimes feel like a time of refereeing arguments, trying to stay cool, and trying to run out the clock of long, tiring days.

Enter: the summer routine! Take a page out of your child’s teacher’s playbook and create some loose daily or weekly routines to help maintain some structure and sanity this summer. Whether it’s daily reading quiet times, a summer bridge activity workbooks, or a weekly visit to the public library, having some shape to your summer will help everyone stay the course.

Let It Be Child Led

Speaking of routines, one way to ensure buy-in from your children is to allow them to have some level of say in how the weekly activities will look and feel. As the parent, you will present options to your child from which they may choose. You have access to the larger scope of the family calendar and budget, but within that, let your kids go wild!

Let them choose if they prefer to have their quiet reading alone time in the mornings or afternoons? Will they work their way through a book series or select random titles to read? If you plan to order some learning resources online, pick out two or three and give your child the final choice for which one looks most appealing. And don’t forget to let them pick their favorite story to read along with on the United Through Reading App.

Look for appropriate rewards along the way. Kids (and adults!) are often motivated extrinsically. Tell them about the library’s end of summer reading program festival for children who meet or exceed the reading goal. (And you can win some prizes from United Through Reading at the Navy and Army libraries this summer.) Dangle your own bait, too! Is there a great movie version of a book on your child’s summer reading list? Plan a fun family movie night complete with snacks once your child finishes the book.

Seek Out a Professional If Needed

Finally, if you are concerned that your child is significantly behind what are normative academic or developmental milestones, don’t hesitate to seek the opinions, advice, or services of a professional. Whether it is contacting your child’s school guidance office, learning specialists, or pediatrician for a referral, the summer can be a great time to address your concerns. Your schedule may be more flexible for getting in for quick appointments when your child isn’t missing school. Setting yourself and your child up for a successful return to school with needed screenings, supports, and services is important to address sooner rather than later.

Our Literacy Tips are presented by Reader’s Digest Foundation.