Brain Building Opportunities are Just Warming Up

The following is a message from Summit Education Initiative Early Childhood Strategy Leader Laura DiCola. It appears in the May 2017 “Prepared, Passionate & Persistent Parents” enewsletter.
Some of my sweetest childhood memories are of long, lazy summertime days spent with my sister. We spent endless hours outside with the neighbor kids, playing kick ball and hopscotch, jumping rope and camping out in our backyard.
 
Little did we know that we were building important social emotional skills through this kind of play. Our summers were also filled with more structured kinds of enriching learning opportunities. Every year, we looked forward to girl scout day camp, our family’s annual trip to the Cleveland Zoo, art lessons and countless visits to the library. We were very lucky.
 
Some children in our community do not participate in or have access to opportunities that stimulate learning during summer break. Summer learning loss can happen to all students, but losses in early literacy and math skills are especially common in children in low-income families. In fact, over 50 percent of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
 
At the end of summer, students score lower on standardized tests than they did at the beginning of summer. This trend has lasted over 100 years. The research is clear: academic and social gains made during the school year can be compromised or lost if children do not continue to use and improve on these developing skills over the summer.
 
Summer learning opportunities positively impact students’ academic and social achievements. As parents, educators and community members, we can help more children participate in and get access to enriching summertime experiences. We can help educate parents about the benefits of these often simple, fun activities that children enjoy but adults may take for granted.
 
In this issue we’ve included several ideas for engaging children in summertime learning experiences. Some of my personal favorites (kid-tested and approved by my own girls!) include baking cookies, family game nights and picnics in the park – with several good books in tow! Feel free to send me other ideas you have, and please share this e-newsletter with your friends, family members and co-workers who have or work with children.
 
As always, if you have information to share or ideas you’d like us to consider for future e-newsletters, please feel free to email me. In June we will showcase some of Summit County’s out of school time providers and how they are impacting young children’s lives.
 
Here’s to a sunny and learning-rich summer!