Stopping Summer Brain Drain

Many families chose summer as a time to work with our programs, as kids are free from homework and have a bit more cognitive energy available to devote to improving brain processing efficiency. And parents have always liked the idea of having something “academic” for kids in the summer in order to cut down on summer brain drain.

Concerns about summer brain drain are real. From the NY Times Wellness blog:

Several studies have documented a “summer slide” in reading skills once school lets out each spring. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of about two months of school each summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. And the loss compounds each year.

The good news is that it’s not too hard (or expensive) to beat summer brain drain. Many families we work with report that after training with Fast ForWord, their kids are ready to tackle the academic challenges of the new school year, armed with brains that process more efficiently and better working memory. And a new study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville showed significant academic improvement in students who were given free access to books at spring book fairs.

From the NY Times:

Children who had received free books posted significantly higher test scores than the children [in a control group] who received activity books. The effect, 1/16th of a standard deviation in test scores, was equivalent to a child attending three years of summer school, according to the report to be published in September in the journal Reading Psychology.

Interestingly enough, the effect is present no matter what kids read – apparently a biography of Brittany Spears was the most popular book selected by students in the UT trial. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of a book about how children learn, “Mind in the Making,” quoted in the Times blog said the findings should encourage parents and teachers to give students more leverage in selecting reading material:

“A child’s interests are a door into the room of reading … If your child is turned off by reading, getting them to read anything is better than nothing.”

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