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Ain't No Cure For The Summertime Blues – Or Is There?

child reading book
child reading book
July 6, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The school doors close and Ohio youngsters joyfully embrace a summer of fun and frolic. That's an idyllic - and outdated - notion for many families with working parents, limited incomes and local summer programs cut back by belt-tightened budgets.

Jeff Smink, vice president for policy at the National Summer Learning Program, says the summertime blues can be hard on some children in low-income situations who are forced into idleness.

"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."

Children of pre-kindergarten age are considerably better off, he says, thanks to federally- and state-subsidized year-round comprehensive care and education programs. Smink urges parents of children in kindergarten through 12th grade to check with schools, libraries, and parks and recreation officials to find what's available. If nothing affordable exists, he says, even working parents should try to find an hour a day to read with their children.

Research shows the value of an engaging summer reading program, Smink says - as well as the cost of not having access to one.

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

It may sound counter-intuitive to some that students who sit in classrooms during the school year actually could gain weight during the summer months when they would seem to be more active, but Smink dispels that notion.

"Not having the structure that's associated with the school day leads to more snacking, things like that. We also know that kids in high-poverty communities often live in neighborhoods where it's not safe to go outside, so they're actually inside more and less active."

The best summer programs avoid the stigma of "summer school" by incorporating field trips and fun activities, he says, along with the structure and academic work that keeps students from summertime back-sliding.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH