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Summer Brain Drain

June 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Special Features


Summer Brain DrainWhen the final school bell rings on that hot day in late June, students bolt out of their classrooms. After 10 months of formal instruction, they are ready for a break. But what happens when elementary and secondary level students burn their books for nine weeks?

There are varying opinions about modifying the academic calendar to include a shorter summer break, but what experts do agree on is the need for sustained learning between the months of June and September.

The “summer brain drain” refers to that gap in knowledge that occurs during the summer break. Kids fall behind and forget what they have learned, putting them at a disadvantage when they ring in the new school year. “There is literature out there that speaks to the ‘summer learning slide’”, says Drew McNaughton, principal of community and international education services at York Region District School Board. “The data lets us know that students can lose one to three months of learning over the summer.”

According to McNaughton, Canadian schools have found that some reading assessment scores are higher in June than they are the following September. With these worrisome findings, parents may want to be proactive and build a summer action plan. Continued education in the summer months is a solution, but it doesn’t have to imitate the academic rigor that occurs during the school year.

“We recommend an informal learning process,” says Paul Cappon, president and CEO of the Canadian Council on Learning. He suggests a program that incorporates familial interaction, where children are actually supported by their parents to read during the summer. Adult-child conversations about books should also be sparked around the dinner table to enhance reading comprehension and oral communication. Doing so from a young age is vital, as children can establish good habits to carry them through life. “They need to foster a love of learning – particularly a love of reading,” says Cappon. “This is especially important for boys because already by Grade 3 there is a significant gap in reading skills between girls and boys.” Choosing reading materials that will capture their attention is important when trying to create a positive learning experience.

Despite socio-economic status, parents have the power to create strong students. “If they encourage reading in the earlier grades, those barriers of income can be overcome,” says Cappon. Taking an active role in a child’s education outside of school makes a huge difference in their academic performance. Even as an advocate for many summer programs, McNaughton believes that in-home learning can be as effective when developing literacy skills. For working parents, a plethora of options are available across Vaughan. From educational camps that help build foundations, to secondary level
literacy programs, students in our communities can avoid being brain-drained this summer.

Find a reading program near you at


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