Member of the UBC Senate
SINCE the schools are closed now, make sure that your child keeps the books open, and “if your child is turned off by reading, getting them to read anything is better than nothing” during summer break.
Summer slide or summer learning loss is the loss in academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation. The loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter, and the family income. The price for keeping the books closed, during summer, is a very high one. Although some students often jump at the chance to catch up on their reading during vacations, many, particularly those from low-income families, read few, if any, books during the summer break
Several studies have documented a “summer slide” in reading skills once school lets out each spring. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of about two months of school each summer. According to a study done at John Hopkins University the loss that children from low socio-economic families experience is a cumulative learning loss over the elementary school grades. By the end of 5th grade such children fall more than two years behind their middle-class peers in verbal achievement and one and a half years in math. The danger is that the summer learning loss can follow students through high school, college and university.
In the twenty-first century consumerist job market, verbal communication skill is considered the most important attribute for a job, or for admission to a university, especially a professional college. The children from our community, who are already behind the eight ball should not be allowed to lose more ground in the education area. As Dr. Shimi Kang writes in her book The Dolphin Parent: “To do well in today’s fast-paced, highly social, ultracompetitive, and globally connected world, our children need twenty-first century skills, namely creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.”
Parents play a key role in filling the achievement gap which the children from low socio-economic status already have, and in avoiding further loss. Parents have to encourage their children to explore the landscape beyond the city gates, and discover their dreams. Two-third of the academic achievement gap in reading and language found among high school students has been explained through the leaning loss that occurs during summer months of the primary school years.
The early learning gap in the elementary years has a long-term harmful impact. When compared to high socio-economic status youth, the low socio-economic status youth are more likely to enter adulthood without high school certificate – 36 percent versus 3 percent – at the age of 22, and less likely to attend a four-year college – 7 percent versus 59 percent.
Not long ago I asked myself the question: ‘How can I help my grandchild in developing reading and writing skills?’ These skills begin developing long before a child enters school. The big question is: What role a parents should play?
Here are some important things one can do in helping children develop some basic skills needed to stay motivated: talk with your child all the time; read to your child every day; provide crayons, paper, and other materials for writing / sketching images; visit libraries, a museum, and bookstores; allow children to select their own reading material; encourage your child to write at least a page on his daily readings and experience; make your car a university on wheels; talk to them; encourage her / him to ask questions and thus make them curious; set limits and enforce those limits; limit the amount of time your child watches television; when watching TV be sure that he / she watches only age-appropriate programs and you watch with him / her. Infants who watched videos learned an average of seven words fewer a day than those that did not. Encourage your child to read. A child who reads 21 minutes a day gets familiar with 1.8 million words a year. Reading and writing are two golden keys for success in life.
“Allow the child to discover his own unique talent. Nature has packed our kids bags with specific talents, gifts, interests, and desires, all for a purpose. Part of our role as parents is to help them identify and pursue that purpose, not teach them to duplicate someone else.” Be a good role model, one that will increase children’s chances of being healthy, happy, self-motivated, and truly successful leaders that will contribute to the world. Remember that nothing speaks louder than your example. “Kids learn more with their eyes than their ears. They will follow your footsteps faster than your words. Model the behaviour you want them to follow.” (Dr. Shimi K. Kang).