Help your kids fight learning loss and
Keep School Skills Sharp

by Theresa Flynn-Nason

Your kids worked hard last school year to develop new skills. Now it’s time to rest and enjoy a long, lazy summer vacation. But unless you include skill-sharpening activities in their routines, your kids are likely to lose some of the knowledge they worked so hard to acquire.

You don’t need a teaching degree to protect your child from learning loss. All you need to do is make sure your youngster is engaged in some type of educational activity on a daily basis. Here are some ideas.

Write Letters
Letter-writing is a fun way to reinforce spelling and language arts skills. Encourage your youngster to write weekly letters to grandparents or other relatives. Be sure to mail the correspondence. Ask the relative to send a return letter. Most kids are delighted to receive mail and reading the response will strengthen reading skills.

What is Summer Learning Loss?

During a three-month summer vacation, recently acquired skills begin to disintegrate and fall away. Students experience a backward “summer slide,” losing an average of 2.5 months of learning. That’s why achievement test scores are commonly lower in fall than in the previous spring.
Read Daily
Most libraries have summer reading programs that offer incentives for kids to read. You might create your own program in which each family member pledges to read a certain number of books during the summer. Or you might have a daily reading hour during which every family member reads.

Resource: MetroKids has posted a summer reading list of 79 kids’ books, organized by book type and age.

© Patrick Roberts. King Features Syndicate

Use Comic Strips
A comic strip uses illustrations and a few words to tell a story. Just like other stories, comics have a sequence — a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can use comic strips to develop your child’s understanding of plot sequence.

1. Cut a comic strip from a newspaper.
2. Separate the strip into its individual frames.
3. Mix up the frames and ask your child to arrange them in their proper order. You can extend the activity by having your youngster draw an additional frame to add to the strip

Fun with Math I
Research shows that math skills slide the most during vacation. One quick, easy math activity is a Fact Match.

1. Write a math question, such as 8 x 4 = or 7 + 9 = , on each of ten slips of paper.

2. Place the 10 slips face down on one side of a flat surface.

3. Write the answer for each question, such as 32 or 16, on ten additional slips of paper.

4. Place the answer slips face down on the other side of the flat surface.

5. Turn over one question and one answer slip. If you match a question and its answer, pick up the papers and take another turn. If the papers do not match, turn them back over.

6. Have your child repeat this process. When all papers have been picked up, the player holding the greatest number of slips wins.

The math problems and answers you use will depend on what your child studied this past school year. If you’re unsure, use these guidelines:

Kindergarten youngsters should be able to match a number and its word name.
By the end of 1st grade, students should know addition with sums through 12.
By the end of 2nd grade, kids should know addition and subtraction up to 20.
In 3rd grade, students master multiplication through the tens.
In 4th grade, kids learn division.

Fun with Math II
A pocketful of loose change can be a valuable teaching tool.

Display different coins to young children and ask them to give the name and value of each.

Show a 1st or 2nd grade child a group of coins and ask her to add up the total value of the group.

Challenge an older child to name another group of coins with the same value as the group you display.

Arrange coins in a pattern such as a nickel, two pennies, a nickel, two pennies. Ask a youngster to identify and then extend the pattern.

Challenge a child to sort a collection of coins into groups with a common trait such as color, value, or date of issue.

Each of these activities will bolster core math skills.

Theresa Flynn-Nason is a veteran teacher and educational consultant who has designed a kit of materials for use over summer vacation called Summer Matters to Kids, available at Chester County Book and Music Company in West Chester, PA or online at