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A Common Pitfall of Summer Break: Summer Learning Loss

By Amanda Setlak, Ph.D.

Boy with head in hands, looking overwhelmed while studying

​​​​In the eyes of a child, summer break means no more early bedtimes, homework and long days in class. Kids dream and fantasize about playing with their friends and limited daily expectations, and at the same time, parents can take a break from checking over homework and the morning rush. While summer break should be a time to relax and have a little fun, it should not be a complete break from learning.

Just because your child is moving on to the next grade, it does not mean they will retain everything they learned over the past year. If we remembered everything we learned throughout our lives, then we wouldn’t need to use Google to search up random facts we can’t remember! As the saying goes, use it or lose it.

The Reality of Summer Learning Loss

Nearly all students show a decline in test scores from the beginning of summer compared to the end of summer. On average, students lose:

  • 2.6 months of math computations skills
  • 1 to 2 months of reading skills

Students show declines in all core subjects, but learning loss is more significant in math computation and spelling. This is likely due to the factual nature of these subjects, as factual information is more easily forgotten if not practiced regularly. Additionally, parents are more likely to enforce continued reading over the summer as compared to spelling and math. Though some students suffer from summer learning loss more than others, a continued focus on education should be an integral part of summer break. Boys Town Behavioral Health recommends the following strategies.

Strategies to Stay Ahead of Summer Learning Loss

  • Get a Head Start. If your child struggled significantly over the past school year, summer is the best time to try to address these concerns. Do not wait until the next year and instead, get a jump start on learning concerns.
  • Engage. Promote learning at all times and place a priority on skill maintenance by integrating learning and teaching into daily experiences to foster curiosity. Focus on the basics of reading, math, and spelling for at least 30 minutes a day; especially if your child is in elementary school. For older children, focus on the areas in which they struggled and add in daily or weekly reviews. Answer questions by working and researching together to find answers. Check community calendars, look into activities at the public library, and find grade-level workbooks and activities on the Internet.​
  • Summer School and Learning Programs. If you think summer school may benefit your child, talk to your child’s teacher to see if he or she qualifies and if your school offers a summer program. Other learning programs are also available, like the Boys Town Learning Academy, where the focus on remediation of learning problems through individualized interventions are developed by a staff of school psychologists. Call (402) 498-3358 for more information.