Parents are the key to helping students avoid the summer slump resulting in learning loss. Keep students reading and exercising math skills can increase their learning abilities.

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Most children would rather do anything during summer break than study. But for many, learning loss comes with vacation. Parents are the key to stopping “summer slump.”

Many teachers agree that the two months children are out for summer can cause them to forget some of what they learned the previous school year. National Summer Learning Association research suggests that academic loss can equate to as much as a month - sometimes two - of classroom learning.

But summer also presents lots of opportunities to keep young minds sharp.

“Practical learning experiences abound during the summer,” Diane Jackson, a former primary school teacher and current media coordinator at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School, said via e-mail. “Such family activities as swimming and hiking present children with opportunities for creating graphs and interpreting the results of laps or miles achieved by each family member. Be creative and use the child’s interest for summertime learning.

With their scoring and time parameters, summer sports such as baseball, soccer and tennis provide math and analytical opportunities, she said. Writing skills get better as children compose and organize shopping lists for family camping trips. “Reading skills can be sharpened by label-reading at the store, and math skills are everywhere in a grocery store,” Jackson said.

Amy Berry, whose daughter Lily will enter first grade at Black Mountain Primary and whose other daughter Piper will be in fourth grade at Black Mountain Elementary, encourages her girls to read the books they have at home. She also takes them to Black Mountain Library frequently.

“During the summertime, they get to read what they want,” Berry said. “We recently went to a consignment store, and both picked out books that they wanted to read. Also, I read aloud to Lily and so does Piper. Just about everything they do during the summertime turns into a learning experience. Their dad works at Camp Ridgecrest for Boys, and we do gardening and work around the camp. They are simply learning at a different pace.”

Berry said she concentrates on keeping her daughters’ math skills sharp and uses workbooks and flashcards with Lily.

The summer Rolling for Reading Program bookmobile in Buncombe County runs through Aug. 13 for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The program’s primary objective is to keep students reading during summer break. The bookmobile visits Black Mountain Primary from 9-10 a.m. Wednesdays (for more, call 776-0361 or e-mail bookmobile@ bcsemail.org).

Hope Burk believes her two children - 12-year-old Lila, a student at Owen Middle, and 8-year-old Jack-Wesley, a student at Black Mountain Primary, need this break from school. But they learn in different ways during summer.

“We encourage our kids to really work hard during the school year, and when summer rolls around, they are due for some down time,” she said by e-mail. “We spend a lot of time with family and friends that we normally don’t get to see, and while on the road we try to incorporate educational stops, including local museums and Spanish lessons from a friend we just visited who is a Spanish teacher. We also encourage our children to spend as much time outside as possible. Of course, our children read throughout the summer.”

Letters, emails, texts and postcards to family and friends can keep writing skills up during summer, Jackson said. She also recommends children keep a journal, with pictures, to help make memories last a long time.

Perhaps most important of all in the ongoing quest to keep skills sharp during summer is setting a good example, Jackson said.

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