Now that students are on summer vacation, children’s advocates including first lady Michelle Obama are reminding parents, educators and community leaders about the need to make sure kids keep learning during breaks from school.
Kids who sit around watching TV all day or playing noneducational video games can suffer “summer learning loss,” which can put them behind their classmates when they head back to school in the fall.
To highlight quality programs and research that shows what can happen to kids who won’t use their brains over the next few months, Obama and other children’s advocates across the state and country celebrated National Summer Learning Day on Friday. Obama spoke to more than 200 youth and education leaders at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., where she also found out about some of the programs in which they were involved.
She praised summer programs that allowed kids to have fun while learning by creating a game about heroes like Jackie Robinson, cooking healthy foods, building houses and Lego cities, and dissecting things like frogs, sheep’s eyes and flowers. The best way to get a head start on fulfilling lifelong dreams to go to college and eventually land a great job, she said, is to make the most of summer.
Athletes, musicians, entertainers and teachers all spend time during the summer practicing their crafts, Obama said. Similarly, she said students should make summer plans that can help steer them toward their goals.
Here is some of Obama’s excerpted summer advice:
“ … if you want to be an engineer or a doctor, for example, think about signing up for a science camp or asking your science teacher what you can do to get ahead in physics or biology over the summer. If you want to perform on stage, maybe you can join a community theater or sign up for an acting class at your Boys and Girls Clubs in your community. If you fell behind in your classes, well, now is the time to buckle down and work to catch up over the summer.
And no matter what you do, every single one of you should read, read, read. That’s what the President tells our daughters. Libraries all across the country are hosting outstanding summer reading programs every single year. So you all have got to go in and pick up some of those new books, maybe on some subjects you don’t know much about. Because reading might be the most important thing you can do for your future. And you can never do enough of it. I know your parents tell you this, and we struggle in our own household to get our kids to turn off the screens and pick up books. But truly, reading is going to do so much for you. So pick up those books and really get into it.
But here’s the thing: Summer isn’t just about building new skills and gaining new experiences; it’s also about keeping your minds fresh. Research shows that if you just sit around and you don’t work out your brain all summer, you not only miss out on new information and skills, you can actually lose up to three months’ worth of knowledge from the previous year. That’s a lot. So in some instances, you can actually go backward.
So if you’re not picking up a book, and all you’re doing all summer long is sitting on the couch and catching up on TV shows, then I guarantee that you’re going to lose some ground next year in school. And that won’t just make a difference this fall, it can show up in the years ahead. Because once you begin applying to colleges — which all of you are going to do, right? You’re going to be competing against kids who are already making the most of their summers.
Let me just share this with you — there are kids who are really serious about getting into college, and they work on this with the help of parents and tutors, and they’re prepping for their SATs already. They’re completing phenomenal internships. They’re doing everything they can to improve their chances of getting into college. And so you don’t want to fall behind just because you took the summer off …”
How will your kids exercise their brains this summer?