August 03, 2018

Keeping the ‘Summer Slide’ at bay

By Terri Sorensen

For many kids, summer is the best time of year, filled with vacations and worry-free, sun-filled endless days of just being a kid. For youth facing the highest risks, and especially those in low-income households, summertime isn’t always fun and can often be the most difficult time of year.

Summer is also a time when kids tend to disengage academically. The “summer slide” is the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose out on reading time over the long summer months, undoing some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.

Many families also lose access to important resources such as daycare, academic support, after-school care, a safe place for kids to play, school meals and extracurricular activities that keep them learning and growing.

Here is what this looks like in numbers:

A study using data from more than half a million students in grades 2-9 from a southern state (from 2008-2012) found that students, on average, lost between 25–30 percent of their school-year learning over the summer.

Five out of six kids who rely on free or reduced-price school meals aren’t getting free meals in the summer.

In 2014, parents reported planning to spend an average of $958 per child on summer expenses. With 15 million kids living below the poverty line, that’s a big expense.

A national study found that in the summer after kindergarten, 83 percent of children from low-income households did not have regular care arrangements with someone other than their parents, compared to 70 percent of the children from higher-income households.

Our Friends—salaried, professional mentors—know the challenges that families face in the summertime all too well. It’s also why they prepare meticulously for how they are going to spend time with their youth in the summer.

From helping families find and enroll their kids in summer camps and sports camps, to taking youth on day trips they normally wouldn’t have the chance to take, this is often the most meaningful time of year for building bonds that last well into adulthood.

Every chapter takes their own approach to building activities and taking advantage of what their unique community has to offer. They also work with youth to get creative and think outside the box about fun and enriching things to do so that they learn and try new things.

Because school success is one of our most important measures, we focus on it year-round—and especially in the summer. We continue to encourage academics and reading, and build upon sparks identified. Some chapters organize summer reading competitions, while other chapters take their youth to museums or the local library.

We also focus on keeping our youth physically active, whether it’s going on hikes or bike rides or nature walks. This helps empower our youth to build healthy habits that will serve them year-round.

From learning how to make bath bombs to starting a business with specific jobs for each child (and teaching them how to manage the money they earn!), to learning how to garden, these activities provide the chance for youth to find their spark, one of our Core Assets.

Friends also plan group outings with fellow Friends and youth where they are able to work on social-emotional skills, team building and positive relationship-building.

All of these activities are all intended to keep our youth growing and learning, working on their roadmap, and putting our Core Assets – especially Find Your Spark, Growth Mindset and Perseverance – into action.

Because many of the youth we serve lose access to key resources in the summer, our Friends also look out for the well-being of their youth, making sure their basic needs are met. They advocate for their families and communities and work with caregivers to connect them to resources (from summer meals programs to air conditioning). They also connect families to free or low-cost programming, sports camp scholarships and social service resources.

The time spent together in the summer creates some of the best memories with our youth and Friends. In fact, many Friends find that is the they are able to focus more on building deeper, more meaningful relationships with their youth.

We know that summer is often a tough time for the youth, families and communities we serve. But we’re not just there to pass the time with our youth – we’re there to connect them to enriching activities and empower them to thrive in the summer so they can be kids and also stay on track.

None of this would be possible without the support of champions like you. If you would like to support our summer programming activities, make a donation today or connect with a local chapter. Together, we can provide our youth a more memorable and fun summer!