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“Use it or lose it!” Adults may have seen this adage on a meme about aging, or heard the advice from a sage physician. But the advice applies to learning, too— and especially what happens for some students during summer breaks.

It makes sense: We lose our skills at what we don’t practice regularly, and that applies to all the skills involved with learning. Research spanning back over 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of a summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer. 

The National Summer Learning Association reports that students lose an equivalent of two months of their grade-level math computational skills over the summer. Students from low-income families may also lose the same equivalency in reading achievement. And researchers from the Brookings Institution found that the extent of summer learning loss is larger at higher grade levels.

Summer camps, schools, and youth development programs provide vital opportunities to reduce summer learning loss, and help students launch into the next school year on the right foot. At Back to Basics, we can help. Check out our summer options for test prep, college readiness, original credit, credit recovery, and K-8 programs.

But there are a lot of ways that families can keep learning fresh at home during summer, too— and at the top of that list is READING. 

Parents and kids agree that reading over the summer is important. According to the Kids and Family Reading Report by Scholastics, six in 10 children ages 6–17 agree “I really enjoy reading books over the summer” (62%), with the main reasons being “I just enjoy reading” and “It’s a fun way to pass the time.” And the majority of both kids (80%) and parents (96%) agree that summer reading will help during the school year! 

Source: Kids and Family Reading Report

Since we all agree on this, here are a few ways to support reading during summers— or any breaks from school:

1.Remind kids how important it is to read.

Elementary students who read 10-15 books at home over the summer gain as much in reading achievement as students who attend summer school. But kids who don’t read during summer vacation can lose two to three months of reading achievement. Who wants the last few months of schoolwork not to matter come September? If we explain the importance of reading to students, in practical and realistic terms, often their growing maturity kicks in.

2. Encourage free choice. 

The Kids and Family Reading Report also found that 92% of kids surveyed said they are more likely to read a book they selected themselves. Just because you wouldn’t pick the book doesn’t mean your child wouldn’t enjoy it— and the benefits of summer reading apply whether she’s reading pulp YA fiction or the classics. 

3. Role model reading.

Parents are kids’ #1 source of encouragement to read books for fun, followed by teachers and librarians. Share stories about the books you love, hype-up titles your child might like, and role model reading. If you are excited about books, that enthusiasm is contagious.

Source: Kids and Family Reading Report

4. Make and share goals

Together with your child, make lists of books you’d like to read. Use recommendations from friends and smart internet resources. Then track those goals using visible reminders— a chart, stickers, social media, even Goodreads. Make those challenges attainable, and share your progress.

5. Remember, reading is its own reward.

Turn reading into a social activity. Chat about books whenever you can, and acknowledge your child’s likes, interests, and successes with reading. If a prize is the outcome, what happens when there are no prizes? Instead of rewards for finished books, find fun in the process— in the stories you share, the connections you make, the new ideas sparked.

What are some ways that you nurture and support a love of reading in your household?  How do you find ways to “use it or lose it?” Let us know your ideas!