While kids are usually delighted to start summer holidays, educators know that the long summer break comes at a cost. We call it summer learning loss, and it’s an issue for all students. During the summer holidays, children’s academic skills suffer, and they lose content knowledge as well as skills. In state schools, this is particularly the case for children who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, but affects all children to some degree. In the case of children who go to school in a language not spoken around them (home or community) there is another serious side effect of the summer break: summer language loss.
Here are some ideas to help parents lessen the summer language loss for their children:
- Enforce good reading habits. Children should read every day in the summer, in the school language, and in their own language as well. Everyday reading not only helps with language development, but also helps with summer learning loss as well. It’s best if the children choose what to read themselves, but a good librarian can help them make choices that are age/level appropriate and will meet their interests. Look for a summer reading programme at the local library or online if your child needs competition to get them reading!
- Read to your children. Parents need good reading habits too! Read to your children in your own language, and in the school language if you are comfortable with that. Have conversations around what you are reading, in any language.
- Use screen time strategically. If your child loves cartoons, find some in the school language for them to watch. If they are movie fans, get movies in the school language, watch them with subtitles and compare what people are saying! This helps focus in on language use, and keeps them thinking in the school language.
- Plan for school language conversation time. If parents are comfortable using the school language (don’t need to be perfect, and accent doesn’t matter!) consider planning a block of time several times a week to do an activity together in the school language. This could be playing a game, having a conversation, or any other shared activity. By making it planned, you can be sure that the school language won’t take over from the home language, but you still give your children some time to use the language regularly.
For some families, the summer is the time when they go back to their home country, and focus on building their children’s language skills in this important language. This is also very important, and shouldn’t be sacrificed. What you are looking for is balance, between the needs of home language development over the summer and lessening the summer language loss effect.