Although it is important for children to take time to have fun and recharge over summer vacation, there is documented evidence that this time off from school can lead to a decline in reading and mathematical skills, especially for children from low-income families. Here, the educational technology experts at SchoolMart break down the data regarding summertime cognitive decline and provide tips on what parents can do to help keep their children’s minds engaged over summer vacation.
The Research on Cognitive Decline in Students Over Summer Vacation
The impacts of summer vacation on student learning have been well-documented in several studies. In 1996, a systematic review of nearly 40 studies showed that cognitive decline during summer vacation equaled approximately one month of in-class education and that students tended to retain their reading skills more than math concepts. In fact, students from middle- and upper-income families often improved their reading skills over the course of summer vacation, while students from lower-income families typically saw a decline in their reading ability.
Similar studies, such as one conducted nationally by Johns Hopkins University, has shown similar results. According to their research, the majority of achievement gaps in students during their ninth-grade year traced back to differences in summer enrichment during their elementary school years. Another study conducted in 2011 indicated that two years’ worth of reading skills could be lost by sixth grade based on a lack of summer enrichment.
Solutions to Prevent Cognitive Decline
It is evident that summer vacation can have negative impacts on student’s retention of knowledge, particularly for lower-income students. Fortunately, a 2017 study showed that students who participated in structured reading programs during the summer did not show signs of reading skill loss in the following school year. There are many ways that parents can recreate these results for their own children:
Participate in Summer Reading Programs
Many libraries, often in partnership with local school districts, have developed summer reading programs that encourage and reward children for reading specially-selected books suited to their grade level. These programs are typically free, and many programs cater to elementary, middle and high school students.
Swap Cartoons for Educational Programs
Many children spend increased amounts of time in front of the television during summer vacation, and parents can use this time to boost their child’s reading comprehension and vocabulary skills by choosing educational programs instead of traditional television content. Even substituting a half hour of television for more educational content per day can have an impact on a child’s knowledge retention.
Have Children Help with the Cooking
Cooking from a recipe allows for children to practice their reading skills and also practice their mathematical skills by measuring, halving or doubling recipes. Choose recipes that rely heavily on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains for an added nutritional benefit.
Choose Toys That Stimulate Learning
It is important for children to spend time during their summer playing, but playtime can be both fun and educational. Choose toys that require children to engage the skills they learn during the school year. Some toys that stimulate learning, particularly mathematical concepts, are toy cash registers, measuring sets, blocks, board games that involve dice and tangrams. While there is inherent value to toys that are not heavily educational, including a variety of toys that reinforce educational concepts can help to prevent cognitive decline during the summer months.
SchoolMart provides a wide array of educational tools and games that stimulate learning for children of all ages. To learn more about the products we offer, visit our website today!