Your children’s summer vacation time can be one of the most pleasant and happy periods, but also can be a two-edged sword, if they fall behind academically.
For me, summer was filled with long days of swimming, playing ball etc. However, there was one stipulation. As children we had to spend a designated period of time each day reading or attending to some means of cognitive stimulation.
The most critical time for your child’s learning brain occurs between the early childhood years to adolescence. This critical period also coincides with the primary grades to middle school, when academic proficiency is critical to their learning brain development. In short, taking a two-month hiatus for even your most proficient students can cause a summer slump in academic skills. For the low achieving and at-risk student it could be catastrophic!
Brain development and academic skill development are not only based on maturity but also repetition and consistency. For example, you will almost always have a percentage of students whose academic skills are below the expected grade level curriculum. Another larger percentage at or near grade level, in the middle, and another smaller group above grade level.
In 1996, thirty-nine studies found summer loss of academic skill equaled about one month of classroom learning, and students tended to regress even more in math skills compared to reading skills. It also found that students from middle and upper class families improved in reading over the summer, while students from lower-income families regressed (Review of Educational Research, 1996).
Moreover, a Harvard University study reviewed research on summer reading interventions conducted in the United States and Canada from 1998 to 2011. The study included 41 classroom and home-based summer reading interventions involving children from kindergarten to grade eight. Children who participated in classroom interventions, involving teacher-directed literacy lessons, or home interventions, involving child-initiated book reading activities, enjoyed significant improvement on multiple reading outcomes (Kim, J. & Quinn, D., 2013).
The treatment group (those that received reading interventions) compared to the control group results (no reading interventions) had positive results. This treatment group included a majority of low-income children. Also, within that same study, comparisons indicated that summer reading interventions had significantly larger benefits for children from low-income backgrounds than for children from a mix of income backgrounds. These research findings identify the positive impact of classroom and home-based summer reading interventions on the reading comprehension ability of low-income children (Kim, J. & Quinn, D. 2013).
The significance of the studies show that if families and educators encourage kids to stay engaged in learning throughout the summer, students may not only maintain, but improve their academic skills. Some advocates recommend year round schools and even summer school. Unfortunately, year round schools are not for everyone. For some families, the summer time can be a bonding time for travel and summer activities, and summer school might be too punitive because many students who attend summer school are often those who are behind academically. Instead, the answer might be a cram course for parents to become more knowledgeable about how to remediate and/or teach reading or at least an awareness of the need to designate some period of time each day to cognitive stimulation?

For additional information parents can go to my blog: Dr. David Sortino – Santa Rosa Press Democrat and read “Increasing Reading Fluency with Beginning Readers.” David Sortino, Ph.D., a Graton resident, is director of The Neurofeedback Institute: email him at