The Antidote to Summer Learning Loss? Reading and Outdoor Play

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A volunteer puts together a piece of playground equipment at a KaBOOM! build in Ruth Rothkopf Park in Lauderhill, FL. (Photo courtesy of KaBOOM!)

Much ado has been made lately about summer learning loss—and many assume that the antidote is more school. Whether that takes the form of summer school, year-round school, or computer camp, we have come to believe that more indoor desk time is what our kids need to avoid the “summer slide.”

But the beauty of summer for children is freedom—freedom to move, freedom to explore, and freedom to choose how to spend a lazy afternoon. Summer is a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, and devour novels on a front-porch hammock.

Sadly, too many children these days spend their summers sitting indoors in front of screens, or getting rushed from math camp to soccer practice. They are missing out.

That's why Let's Read. Let's Move, an Administration-wide effort to combat summer reading loss and childhood obesity through volunteering and service is so important. We are thrilled to work with the Corporation for National and Community Service on this effort.

A summer filled with unstructured outdoor play, complemented by a healthy dose of reading, can not only prevent summer learning loss but can challenge, exercise, and open children's minds in new ways.

Outdoor play promotes creativity, hones life skills, and enhances physical health; meanwhile, as noted by Let's Read. Let's Move., reading just five books over the summer can go a long way toward preventing learning loss.

These days, providing the right environment for kids to play and read may take a bit of legwork on the parents' part. Most kids won't pick up a jump rope or book if they're not conditioned to do so. It's up to the parents to limit screen time and make books and unplugged play equipment—think sidewalk chalk, Frisbees, and even cardboard boxes—readily available. Parents can find book access resources to build their children's library and find service opportunities to address reading and childhood obesity at Serve.gov

These efforts will bear fruit. Kids who view reading as a chore will find it easier and more enjoyable the more they do it. (In fact, once they find a story that hooks them, it might be hard to get them to stop!) Likewise, in the right environment, kids who are afraid of “being bored” without electronic distractions will eventually find creative ways to spend their time.

Kids also learn by example, so if you want them to read and play, set aside some time to do it yourself. Go to the park, set up lawn chairs in front of your house, or take an urban hike. Bring books on family outings so that everyone can enjoy some downtime resting and reading together.

Let's give our children the freedom to explore the worlds that exist beyond classroom walls. There is so much out there to learn! Join with KaBoom! as we answer the President's call to service through United We Serve: Let's Read. Let's Move.

Kerala Taylor is a Senior Manager of Online Content and Outreach at KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America's children.

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