The U.S. tradition of long summer school breaks hails from times when children lived on family farms and needed to be available during the growing season to help tend them. While beneficial for farming, long breaks from structured learning can take its toll on academic progress. The sometimes negative impact of up to 12 weeks away from the classroom and formal instruction has been referred to as the “Summer Slide.”
The Summer Slide occurs over the three-month summer break, as kids—especially primary school-aged children—tend to forget concepts, strategies and skills they started learning during the previous school year.
The slide just got longer
We are well into the year of the Corona virus pandemic. Social distancing and economic shutdown have put the squeeze on all families, but especially those with young children. And the summer break for most students, and potentially the Summer Slide, has been extended from about 12 weeks to 20+.
In the best of times, parents employed outside of the home, sometimes holding multiple jobs, often find themselves challenged to feed and shelter their kids, and find affordable, safe care for them before and after school. The challenge heightens during the standard three-month summer break. This year when children may be homebound for up to an additional 12 weeks without school, the usual community provisions for child care, recreational and other engaging activities, parents may feel trapped without options. Adding some homeschooling to their duties may feel insurmountable. Now is the time to reach out for help from our digital, virtual communities.*
Books can help
Digital access to books and reading is one healthy coping mechanism in all of this global mess. Books have the ability to transport us to magical, care-free places and times. They can provide mental stimulus on a range of school and life related topics and a much-needed break from this current reality.
Public libraries have support systems for digital access to wonderful reading material. Many publishing companies, like Scholastic, have provided limited open access to their vast book collections. Online book sellers like EPIC, that typically charge a monthly fee, are offering free limited access to their collections at least into the middle of this summer.
Along with Unite for Literacy’s free online library for young readers, there is a wonderful, comprehensive list of free books and other educational resources for anyone with access to the Internet. Or try Childhood101.com I recommend exploring all of these resources to discover delightful, educational materials to keep everyone in your family growing rather than sliding through the shutdown.
*If you feel you need someone to talk with, many resources exist in each U.S state, nationally and internationally. The SAMHSA Helpline in the U.S. can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and is a good place to start, or call 911 if you feel you’re in crisis.