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"Summer Slide" Ups and Downs: Academic Losses and Weight Gains

PHOTO: Kids on a water slide. Photo Credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: Kids on a water slide. Photo Credit: Deborah Smith
June 28, 2012

HELENA, Mont. - The school doors close and Montana kids joyfully embrace a summer of fun and frolic. That's an idyllic notion, but it is outdated for many families with working parents, limited incomes and local summer programs for kids that were cut back by belt-tightened budgets.

Jeff Smink with the National Summer Learning Program says the summertime blues can be hardest on children in low-income situations.

"Kids lose academic skills over the summer months, particularly in reading, and there's also an emerging body of research showing that kids actually gain weight over the summer at rates much faster than during the school year."

Smink says research shows the value of an engaging summer reading program - and the cost of not having access to one.

"Typically, it shows that kids - in particular, low-income kids - fall two to three months behind in reading. But a high-quality program can actually create gains in reading over the summer."

He says reading to children an hour a day, or encouraging kids to read for an hour, can help.

It may sound counter-intuitive to some that kids who sit in classrooms during the school year could actually gain weight during the summer months when they would seem to be more active, but Smink says it's true.

"Not having the structure that's associated with the school day leads to more snacking and things like that."

Smink urges parents of K-12 kids to check with schools, libraries and parks-and-recreation officials to find what out is available in Montana.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT