Combat summer learning loss with summer reading and internships


Hey, summer’s here! I’ll get a summer job, hang out with the gang back home, party with friends, put school behind me and forget everything I learned …. And that’s the problem. It’s called “summer learning loss.” Students of all ages tend to lose some of the knowledge they gained during class the year before. To keep your brain in learning mode so you don’t get out of practice, do some summer reading of books in your field (history books, modern literature, science books, psychology journals), attend a lecture or get a summer internship.

What is summer learning loss?

We all know that if we don’t practice something we’re going to forget it. That’s true for your brain, which needs to be constantly exercised.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, “To succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months… All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer… Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.”

Contributors to summer learning loss

“Our traditional 180-day school calendar creates an incredibly inefficient system of learning. We cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy and money to promoting student learning and achievement, and then walk away from that investment every summer,” wrote Jeff Smink in “This Is Your Brain on Summer” in New York Times, July 27, 2011.

Why we lose learning over the summer:

  • Too much emphasis on summer jobs, partying with friends and trips to the beach.
  • Less access to books, study material or educational workshops.
  • Can’t afford to take a class or participate in an unpaid internship.
  • Think you have no time to read or go to a lecture.

Ways to combat summer learning loss

There are a lot of things you can do to keep your brain excited about learning that won’t cramp your summer vacation.

  • Read books, journals and web pages that offer information, news and new discoveries in your field of study, such as history books, modern literature, science books, psychology journals or law reviews. There’s always some time between jobs and summer activities to read.
  • Enroll in a summer class. Some classes are short (a few weeks) and many offer credits.
  • Attend a lecture or workshop. Colleges, museums, libraries, historical societies and professional associations host lectures, workshops and classes all year.
  • Work at an internship. Not only are you putting into practice what you’ve learned, but you’re gaining valuable experience for a future career.
  • Teach a summer class to elementary or high school students. What a great way to strengthen your own knowledge of a subject while you help kids catch up over the summer.
  • Debate the movie versus the book. Who doesn’t like a summer movie? “‘I liked the book better.’ How many times have you said this to your friends after seeing a movie. Or maybe a film adaptation inspired you to pick up the book. Consider listing books and their corresponding DVDs… watch a movie and talk to friends and family about which version they like better and why,” suggested a writer in American Teacher, May/June 2008 in the article “Limit Summer Learning Loss” found on
  • Start your own summer reading or study group with friends and colleagues. If you don’t have a study group or lecture in your area, organize it yourself. You could discuss the current issues in the news, chose a discovery in science or subject in history and research it online, or even choose a fiction book to read and discuss.

How do you plan to keep your mind active during the summer? Let us know in the comments below!

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