Newswise — What: Interview availability with Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University, about tips for parents to avoid "summer slide" and what to look for in a quality summer program
[Note: The Center for Summer Learning can recommend outstanding summer learning programs nationally for reporters and photographers to visit.]
School's out! But parents: Don't let your kids' brains take a vacation.
Research shows that many students fall more than two months behind in math over the summer, and low-income children fall behind two months in reading while middle-income kids make slight gains. Johns Hopkins University researchers recently found that 65 percent of the achievement gap between poor and more advantaged children is due to unequal summer learning experiences during elementary school years. A recent Ohio State University study shows children also gain as much weight during the summer as they do during the entire school year. The problem is worse for African-American and Hispanic kids, and for those already overweight.
"Parents always say summer is the hardest time to make sure their kids have productive things to do," says Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. "Summer should be fun and memorable, but parents shouldn't let it be a break from learning. High-quality summer learning opportunities are fun and engaging for kids, while keeping them healthy, safe and on track in school."
SUMMER LEARNING TIPS:WHAT PARENTS CAN DO TO KEEP KIDS SHARP OVER THE SUMMER"¢ Locate a summer program. High-quality summer camps and programs exist in almost every price range. Camps offered by schools, recreation centers, universities, and community-based organizations often have an educational or enrichment focus.
"¢ Visit the library. Find out what interests your child and select books on that subject. Participate in free library summer programs and make time to read every day.
"¢ Take educational trips. These can be low-cost visits to parks, museums, zoos and nature centers. Plan vacations with educational themes.
"¢ Practice math daily. Measure items around the house or yard. Track daily temperatures. Add and subtract at the grocery store. Learn fractions while cooking.
"¢ Play outside. Limit TV and video game time during summer, just as during the school year. Intense physical activity and exercise contribute to healthy development.
"¢ Do good deeds. Students learn better and "act out" less when they participate in activities that help them develop emotionally, such as community service.
"¢ Keep a schedule. Continue daily routines during the summer with structure and limits. The key is providing a balance and keeping kids engaged.
"¢ Prepare for fall. Find out what your child will be learning during the next school year by talking with teachers at that grade level. Preview concepts and materials over the summer. What Parents Should Look for in Quality Summer Programs"¢ Low student-to-staff ratios."¢ Positive interaction between kids and caring adults."¢ High-interest, engaging activities."¢ Balanced programming with daily opportunities for reading, math, enrichment and recreation."¢ A safe, structured learning environment.
Founded in 1992, the Center for Summer Learning works to expand summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth as a strategy for closing the achievement gap and promoting healthy youth development. Over the past 15 years, the center has grown from operating a local program serving 50 children to becoming the only national organization focused exclusively on summer learning. In 2007, the center helped generate more than $14 million in public investment spent directly on summer programs for youth. The center also provides training and evaluation services to thousands of summer programs. In 2007, the Center trained more than 2,000 summer program providers, serving a total of more than two million youth.
In 2008, the Center for Summer Learning is leading a national campaign to generate public funding and awareness for summer learning programs. A key campaign goal is to ensure Congress provides $50 million in funding for the Summer Term Education Program for Upward Performance (STEP UP), the first federal initiative to exclusively target summer as a strategy to close the achievement gap. If funded, the pilot program would provide at least five weeks of summer programming for more than 30,000 elementary and middle school students in high-poverty communities.
On July 10, the center is sponsoring Summer Learning Day, so communities across the nation can celebrate the importance of high-quality summer learning opportunities in the lives of children and their families. Events across the country, including a forum in Washington, D.C., will showcase programs and raise awareness about how summer programs send young people back to school ready to learn, support working families and help to keep children safe and healthy. In 2007, 145 events took place in 34 states and on Capitol Hill.
The mission of the Center for Summer Learning is to create opportunities for high-quality summer learning for all young people. The Center is committed to expanding summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth as a strategy for closing the achievement gap and promoting healthy youth development. Based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, the Center works to improve program availability and quality, build public support and influence public policy and funding. For more information, visit http://www.summerlearning.org.