How to Protect Your Teen From Summer Learning Loss

Sun Pillar

Sun Pillar (Photo credit: tomhe)

Is Your Kid Experiencing SLL?

Most parents do a pretty good job of helping their teens stay occupied during the summer.  However, staying occupied is one thing, preventing SLL or Summer Learning Loss is another.  When I was a teacher in South Korea there were countless admirable things I gleaned from their education system.  In fact, American educators and parents can learn much from an industrious nation like South Korea; after all they have been in the business of teaching and fostering their youth for over 5,000 years.  For example, South Korea has nothing near a 12-week summer vacation in their public school system’s calendar: in turn, SLL is a non-issue for their children.  SSL or Summer Learning Loss is a regression of academic knowledge and skills that your teen will experience as he or she allows those skills and use of knowledge to lie dormant over these summer vacation days.

What’s a Parent To Do?

Although schools get a break during the summer, parents do not.  In fact, parental workload usually increases once school is out.  I’m certain you’ve arranged for your teen to be occupied with jobs, camps, and vacationing for the summer.  As important as these things are, it behooves you to have your youth exercise specific academic skills that will otherwise diminish during the summer.

If you cannot get your teenaged daughter to give up some great summer evenings to practice solving chemical equations; or if you are not able to dust off your old Pre-Calculus book from college and review the rules of sigma notation with her, then the least you can do is have her read.  Reading is the single most important academic skill you can have your youth practice during the summer to keep her mental faculties free from cobwebs.  We are well aware that much reading makes a better English student, and a better History / social studies student; but reading is just as important in the math and science disciplines.  I’ve  been a part of many meetings where math teachers stress the importance of reading for success in advanced math as story problems become more complex.  Chemistry, Physics, and especially Biology teachers constantly stress how important high ability reading is in their classes.

Two Ideas to get Non-Readers Reading

If your son isn’t so keen on reading and if he’s not too interested in spending two weeks out of his summer at the state math and or writing camp, don’t fret, you can mitigate academic skill loss with some intentional reading at home.  Here’s a couple of tips to help inoculate your teen against SLL as we still have several more weeks of summer ahead of us.

1. Read together: have your kid choose a book title (yes, they choose),  buy two copies.  Agree on a date to discuss after reading a chapter or two.  You may have to juggle two or three books if you’ve got that many teenagers!  You may get some resistance at first, and you may even have to offer some incentives for participation.  As much as a teen may cringe at the idea of reading a book with mom or dad.  They usually end up enjoying it once it gets underway.  I’ve heard more than one parent give positive reports on their parent-teen “book club” experience.

2. Buy a subscription to magazines of their interest or biographies of celebrities they love.  The first book that I devoured from cover to cover without the prompting of a teacher or my parents was a biography of Jimi Hendrix.  I couldn’t put it down because I was so interested in his life and work.  Your teen is the same way.  Who do they ‘love’?

It’s Worth It

Besides being a convenient and practical way for your teen to stay sharp for the next school year, reading does wonders for the brain.  Reading is a complex mental activity that exercises varied regions of the brain, increases blood flow to the brain, increases attention span, and deepens critical thinking ability.  And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be boring topics and it doesn’t even have to be from a book!  Let them use your tablet to read from or buy them one for reading!  Be aware though, if your son or daughter is one who is easily distracted, tablets may prove to add to their reading distraction.  Some e-books apps may offer links to video, webpages, other info related to a book that may interfere with the reading of an easily distracted kid.

In the end, tablet or hard copy fiction or non-fiction, reading is better than no reading at all.  Have your kid read, read, and read some more.  Click the link below to -read- a New York Times article that discusses some of the merits of reading backed by some recent neuroscience research.  Happy summer reading!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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