Summer Learning Day Is a Day of Action!
Summer Learning Day, June 21, is just around the corner. It is a grassroots movement to spread awareness among parents, the public, and policymakers about the issue of summer learning loss for children. Hundreds of events will take place across the country, celebrating local programs and providing a platform for policy advocacy.
The summer learning movement is part of a whole child approach to education. Children live their lives 12 months a year, not just when school is in session. They learn less or even lose what they've previously learned if they don't have stimulating experiences during the summer. Many need, but don't get, federally-subsidized meals for nutrition and structured opportunities for healthy exercise 12 months a year.
The research is solid and shows that without stimulating activities during the summer, students tend to lose two months of what they learned (PDF) in math during the school year and low-income students tend to lose more than two months of reading skills. Research also demonstrates that young people's tendency toward obesity is aggravated during the summer (PDF). Students from working families who are often in relatively unsafe situations between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. during the school year are likely in those situations all day during the summer. No matter what we do to support young people's education, health, and safety during the school year, all of those efforts are undercut when we don't address summer challenges.
The well-being of the whole child is, therefore, severely compromised for millions of children during the summer. Yet addressing summer challenges is generally not a core part of education or youth development policy at the federal, state, or local level across the United States. While there are national campaigns on childhood obesity, few specifically address the summertime. And while the national debate continues on education—whether about testing, accountability, teacher professional development, charter schools, or other issues—summer learning loss has yet to take center stage as an essential ingredient of meaningful reform.
We can only change that by raising public and policymaker awareness of the challenges that the summer break poses and the efforts we must make together to meet those challenges. Summer Learning Day can be a powerful tool to bring communities together, get the attention of policymakers, and celebrate the great work that students, teachers, and other community members are doing in summer learning.
So, if you have a summer learning program in your community, organize a Summer Learning Day event. Engage local political leaders and your representatives in Congress. And you don't have to limit yourselves to June 21. Many summer learning programs don't begin by that date. Organize your event on a date and in a manner that works for your community. The National Summmer Learning Association has resources to help you with event ideas, messaging, and more at www.summerlearning.org/SLD. Don't forget to register your event by June 21 on the interactive Summer Learning Day Event Map. Even if the event is going to be on a different date, make it count as part of the national movement by registering it.
Join the movement! Organize a Summer Learning Day in your community.
Bob Seidel is the senior policy director for whole child partner National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). He has lead responsibility for developing and implementing the association's federal policy agenda and works on state and local policy as well. He also manages the association's Healthy Summers initiative. In addition, Seidel leads the association's work with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on early childhood learning and with the Afterschool Alliance and National Afterschool Association on STEM in out-of-school time. In 2012, Seidel co-chaired the National Human Services Assembly’s federal policy working group. Connect withe NSLA on Twitter @summerlearning.