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Make "Summer Learning" Part of Summer Fun

Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers Looks at Ways to Prevent the "Summer Slump"

Kids who don’t have educationally rich summers
will be nearly three years behind their peers by
the time they reach the end of the fifth grade...
Much like we would expect an athlete or a
musician’s performance to suffer if they didn’t
practice regularly, the same thing is true for
young people when it comes to reading performance.

Ron Fairchild, Founding CEO, National Summer Learning Association

(Washington, DC) — Wendy Bostic of Alexandria, Virginia, knows that summer vacation doesn't have to be a vacation from learning. During the summer, she tries to keep her kids' brains active by taking them to the library and on field trips around the Washington area — talking about everything they see along the way. “Summer's supposed to be a break from the everyday going to school, sitting in the classroom,” says Bostic. “So you have to find new ways to keep kids engaged. There’s learning everywhere.”

“We need to make sure that kids keep reading over the summer,” says Noel Gunther, executive director of Reading Rockets. “If we let our kids shut down during the summer, they forget a lot of what they’ve learned, and it’s hard for them to catch up again when school begins in the fall.”

“Adventures in Summer Learning,” a new Web-based WETA production, explores efforts to stop the summer reading slide and offers practical suggestions for parents on how to keep their children learning during the long summer break.

“Adventures in Summer Learning” also profiles a structured summer program that targets students in low-income, urban communities. The national organization BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) partners with local schools such as Detroit's Warrendale Elementary to provide summer programs that mix academics with enrichment activities designed to build background knowledge — critical for a child’s success in school.

“Children need summer reading programs and summer reading opportunities because two-thirds of the achievement gap can be attributed to the unequal access to summer learning opportunities in elementary schools,” says Dr. Jennifer Turner, assistant professor of reading education at the University of Maryland.

Other students at particular risk for summer reading loss are those with learning disabilities. “Adventures in Summer Learning” highlights the story of Michael Giardina, an eight-year-old whose dyslexia has made school a struggle.

“A good summer program can really help your child with learning differences,” says Dr. Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician. “If you can find an experience over the summer that allows them to feel like they can do something — that sense of achievement and empowerment will carry over to the school year.”

“Adventures in Summer Learning” follows Michael to a six-week intensive summer program at the Landmark School, a school for children with language-based learning disabilities, based in Beverly, Massachusetts. The program features explicit instruction, a slower pace, and lots of repetition for students like Michael.

“This is really the first time that he’s had any measure of academic success,” says Diane, Michael’s mother. “And I think that’s rather profound.”

“The summer reading slide is mostly preventable,” says “Adventures in Summer Learning” executive producer Christian Lindstrom. “Parents and other adults in the lives of young children can do a lot to provide enriching summer learning activities that help keep reading skills sharp and enthusiasm for learning high. This effort over the summer benefits the kids greatly in the fall.”

“Adventures in Summer Learning” is the 11th program in the series “Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers,” WETA's award-winning series of innovative half-hour programs about how children learn to read, why so many struggle, and what parents and teachers can do to help.

The series is part of the ongoing WETA initiative ReadingRockets.org, which uses television, the Internet, print, and outreach to disseminate research-based information about teaching young children how to read and helping those who struggle. ReadingRockets.org is funded primarily by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

ReadingRockets.org sister sites include LDOnLine.org, the world’s leading website on learning disabilities and ADHD; ColorinColorado.org, the first major, comprehensive bilingual website for Spanish-speaking families and teachers of English-language learners; AdLit.org, a literacy website for educators teaching adolescent children from fourth through 12th grades; and BrainLine.org, a new resource for preventing, treating, and living with traumatic brain injury.

WETA is the third-largest program producer for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the flagship public broadcaster in the nation's capital. WETA produces The PBS NewsHour; Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal; history films by Ken Burns such as The War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and, coming in September, Baseball: The Tenth Inning; and such performance specials as In Performance at the White House and The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize. WETA’s headquarters are located in Arlington, Virginia. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at weta.org.

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Laurie Fry
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