Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Need to Read (and Review Math) During the Summer - Part 1

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

For many, the 2014/2015 school year has reached its conclusion (as you most likely know, at this time in the school year, formal teaching has ended). As the last day of school approaches, it is beneficial to reflect on what summer break means for students and parents, and assess our views and opinions about what should happen during the summer months. Why? Because research has found that summer break should not mean a complete break from learning, but for many children this is exactly what happens. The research also indicates that when a complete break from learning does occur, the children are the inheritors of the detrimental effects of that extended break from academic stimulation. But it doesn't have to be this way (you're going to hear me say that several times during this discussion, because it really doesn't have to be this way. We can change it). With very little effort, parents and caregivers can, biithnillaah, prevent one of the most damaging situations that too many children encounter during their academic career.

For many students and their families, the end of the school year means vacation and/or a total and intentional break from learning. Unfortunately, this often translates into about three months of little or no interaction with academic subjects. This is not a good thing. When students return from the summer break, what teachers usually observe is that many students have suffered an alarming loss of previously learned materials; teachers then spend the first months of the new school year re-teaching material from the previous school year that has been forgotten. But again, it doesn't have to be this way, and the research shows us why.

Much of the research available on the academic skills loss that occurs during the summer break addresses summer reading loss specifically, but that does not mean that the same loss does not occur in other subjects; indeed, other researchers have found that, over the summer, students also lose many of the skills they gained during the school year in math. However, because all of the research that will be quoted in this post (and subsequent posts) speaks directly to summer reading loss and how to prevent it, let's start off by defining what summer reading loss is (but when you read that, read it as summer-critical-subjects-loss). Summer reading loss is almost self-explanatory. Put simply, summer reading loss is when students lose (forget) a substantial amount of the reading skills and strategies they learned during the school year.  

This loss came to the attention of researchers and educators when it was consistently observed that the academic gap between children from disadvantaged households and their more economically advantaged peers was not only large, it was growing. This continued growth alarmed educators because its implications were frightening. We won't address those implications in this post, but suffice it to say, researchers discovered that "by the time both groups of children [i.e. economically advantaged and economically disadvantaged children] are nearing graduation from high school, the rich/poor reading achievement gap is four years wide, with [high school] children from low-income families performing at the same level as the middle school children in the eighth grade (NCES, 2001 qtd. in Allington ix)!" Subhanallaah! This means that a seventeen year old young adult, as he/she approaches graduation, is reading at the level of a thirteen year old child! How did this happen? There are many factors that may have contributed to this astonishing - and nothing short of disturbing - reality but we'll address only one in this discussion in'shaa allaah: the one over which we have direct control. 

Join us tomorrow in'shaa allaah as we continue our discussion on why academic learning should not be restricted to the traditional ten months of school, and why it is critical for students' academic success that they continue to interact with academic subjects during the summer break.

Works Cited

Allington, Richard L., and Anne McGill-Franzen, eds. Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading  Achievement Gap.
          New York: Teachers College Press, 2013. Print.  


  1. Is it going to be live discussion?

  2. Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullaah,

    Jazakillaahu khayr sis Maram for your question. Alas, no, the discussion will not be live. It would be difficult to coordinate and schedule a live discussion that would be convenient for the majority of the blog readers' time zone. I do hope, however, that if you have anything you wish to contribute to the conversation you will do so in the comments section *smile*. Take care dear sis.