Making Summer Count

The countdown is on for the remaining days of school—for the majority of U.S. kids, June means school is out and summer is here. And while a more relaxed summer schedule is often a welcome change for both kids and parents, finding productive, fun activities for kids can be a challenge.

This challenge is particularly daunting for low-income families, who cannot afford many of the high quality options available to their children’s wealthier peers.  In fact, as this video illustrates, the uneven distribution of opportunities for poor children over the summer is a significant factor affecting overall performance in school.

It is not just learning that suffers, either.  A study “The Effect of School on Overweight in Childhood” (Von Hippel et al, 2007) found that most children—but particularly those more prone to obesity—tend to gain weight more rapidly when on summer break. Kids who rely on free and reduced school lunches for a substantial portion of their nutrition are also at risk of hunger.

What you can do to help:

Support extended learning time

So what can donors do? Fortunately, lots. On the school side, donors can support schools and/or school schedules that extend learning time and stagger vacations to minimize learning gaps. For example, a model for school redesign to improve the learning environment for teachers and students is found in Generation Schools.

A wide range of nonprofit organizations provide quality summer programming for low-income kids at low or no cost. Examples include:

Support summer meal programs

Organizations such as Share Our Strength work on expanding summer meal options in low-income communities.

Support access to information and technology

Some states have taken the lead on the summer learning issue. The Wyoming Department of Education and MetaMetrics partnered to form the Find a Book, Wyoming and The Summer Math Challenge programs which use adaptive technology—an interesting example of an initiative in this regard. However, its use by poorer families may be constrained by lack of both information and access to broadband technology at home. Donors could play a role here in helping to ensure information and access for those who need it most.

summer learning_iStock_000006568511MediumSupport by raising awareness of the summer learning gap

Donors can also help raise awareness of the summer learning gap within their communities, and push for additional resources and programs to address it. The Summer Learning Advocates campaign offers tips on how to be an effective advocate on the issue, while the Summer Matters campaign in California is an example of a state-wide campaign in action.

Act now

Looking for a worthy and high impact summer project? Help make summer count for all kids.

For more information about preventing summer learning loss:

  • The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has a good summary of what helps, research, and program suggestions.
  • Reading is Fundamental has a one-page primer on summer reading loss and approaches to combat it.
  • The National Summer Learning Association has provided a Did You Know? list of the effects of summer learning loss.