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Combat Summertime Adult Learning Loss

Carol François mage
Carol François

In my last blog, I wrote about summer learning loss for children and warned that, just like kids, adults suffer from the problem as well. I promised to write again and talk about how we can combat learning loss, both for educators and students. So first, let me share something simple that can be done with kids to address the concern.

Annie Murphy Paul, in Time online, cites a study by Richard Allington, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his colleagues who found that giving kids 12 books to read over the summer was as effective as summer school in raising the students' reading scores. The increase in test scores was especially pronounced for those who were most economically disadvantaged.

Murphy Paul goes on to cite another study led by James Kim of the Harvard Graduate School of Education who found that, regardless of family income, the effect of reading four to five books over the summer was large enough to prevent a decline in reading-achievement scores from the spring to the fall. He also noted that children who said they had easy access to books over the summer ended up reading more.

So if summertime reading works to prevent the summer slide in kids, it stands to reason the same is probably true for adults. I experienced this myself many years ago when I participated in a six-week, seven-hour per day immersion into re-reading, analyzing, and writing about classical literature including The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Aeneid during a special summer institute for English teachers. Although grueling at first, the intellectual stimulation proved refreshing and gave me the academic boost I needed to return to school in August ready to teach early American literature to less-than-willing eleventh graders.

So you're thinking, "Hold on! I don't have six weeks to devote to an intensive reading program, let alone one on classical literature." Well, there are lots of interesting ways educators can incorporate reading over the summer. Here a just a few ways to keep the learning going, each of which requires some level of reading:

  • Do an action research project.
  • Lead a book study.
  • Write assessments with a colleague.
  • Give presentations at conferences.
  • Do research on the Internet.
  • Maintain a professional portfolio.
  • Write an article about your work.
  • Read education journals, magazines, and books.
  • Attend a conference or summer institute.

Challenge yourself and a few colleagues to try at least one of these ideas then see how stimulated you remain over the summer months. Learning Forward has any number of free reading options on our website to keep you on your toes, or you might even opt to attend the 2014 Learning Forward Summer Institute in Chicago to learn with like-minded educators who see summer as their chance to learn, grow, and stretch.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, make it count. Read, read, and read some more, and let the young people in your life see you doing so. That just might be the inspiration they need to put the skids on the summer learning slide.

Carol François
Director of Learning,
Learning Forward

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