We can stop low-income students from losing 3 years of reading progress… Here’s how.

By ABCmouse

Children may love the carefree days of summer, but many parents and educators often worry about the summer break from school. Why? Because, according to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the National Summer Learning Association, students from low-income families lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement during the summer. This serious loss of previously learned skills is called the “summer slide.”

In contrast, middle-income students tend to make gains in reading over the summer, which leads to an ever-widening academic achievement gap. By the end of fifth grade, the cumulative effects of the summer slide leave disadvantaged children 2.5 to 3 years behind their more affluent peers in reading.  

What can be done to help maintain academic achievement over the summer for all children? A study by the RAND Corporation found that high-quality summer learning programs can “mitigate summer learning losses and even lead to achievement gains.” The main barrier to implementing these programs is cost. To make high-quality learning resources available to all children, Age of Learning has created several Education Access Initiatives that offer our award-winning digital early learning resource, ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy, at no cost through public libraries, classrooms, and community centers, including computer rooms in Public Housing Authorities.

Our commitment to ConnectHomeUSA helps us serve children living in public housing across the U.S. in need of these critical resources. ABCmouse is already available at no cost in 250 public housing authorities and 6,700 public libraries nationwide. Not only is ABCmouse accessible, but it’s also effective, helping children make significant gains in early literacy and math skills. For example, a recent study found that ABCmouse helped prevent summer slide in reading for students who regularly used it for at least 70 minutes per week over the summer. These students demonstrated literacy gains equivalent to the benefits of one month of academic instruction!

In addition to engaging with ABCmouse in your public housing’s community center, Age of Learning’s Curriculum Advisor, Dr. Rebecca Palacios, provides some great ideas for summer learning opportunities.

Use your local public library to help develop a love of reading and learning. There are so many resources at a library: books, technology access, research areas, and read-alouds.

Take advantage of any free summer programs that fit into your schedule. Many communities have free summer concerts, parks and recreation events, or farmer’s markets. These are all experiences that your children can talk about or write about to develop their language skills.

Make every outing with your child a learning opportunity. Even your grocery store can be a world of wonder filled with colors, shapes, words, and numbers. Provide questions and other opportunities for your child to learn from the world around her. For example, when you’re at a park you can encourage your child to

  • Look at and discuss the different colors of flowers, shrubs, trees, or other plants.

  • Look for geometric shapes in the park, like the square of a concrete sidewalk, or letters “hidden” in the park, like the letter “U” in a park swing.

  • If the children are older, they can research the types of plants at the park and read about them.

Read books daily. Research shows that books that are “just right” for children (those that aren’t frustratingly hard or super-easy) make the best learning experiences. ABCmouse includes more than 800 digital books, including stepped readers that help children become independent and active readers. Physical books are also being made available by the Book-Rich Environments Initiative, which was founded by the Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2017.

Choose a fun and engaging weekly read-aloud book that you can read as a family. Read a chapter aloud every night with different family members taking turns.

  • Point out rhyming words in the book, or words that begin with the same letter.

  • Ask questions about what is happening as the story is being read. Comprehension of the text is a very important skill for children to learn.

  • Discuss the book’s characters: their names, what they look like, what they are wearing, and what they do. Describing and categorizing are important skills in both reading and math.

As stakeholders of the ConnectHomeUSA initiative, we truly believe that the time and thought that you invest in the summer learning of families in your constituency will repay itself many times over, not just at the beginning of the next school year, but in all the school years after that.