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

June 25, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - The school doors close and North Carolina 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 That's an idyllic notion - but it is outdated for many families with working parents, limited incomes and local summer kids' programs cut back by belt-tightened budgets.

Jeff Smink, vice president for policy with 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 an emerging body of research shows that kids actually gain weight over the summer, at rates much faster than during the school year."

Kids of pre-kindergarten age are considerably better off, thanks to federal- and state-subsidized year-'round comprehensive care and education programs. Smink urges parents of K-12 kids to check with schools, libraries and parks-and-recreation officials to find out what is available.

If no affordable programs exist, reading to children an hour a day can help. 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. A high-quality program can actually create gains in reading over the summer."

It may sound counter-intuitive 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 is true.

"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."

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

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC