OGDEN — Parents often look for ways to enrich their kids’ summers by offering learning activities that can help kids stay sharp on the skills they learned the previous school year.
That impulse might be even stronger this summer, given prolonged school closures and reduced time spent learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but one expert advises that parents not double-down with the worksheets or formal programs to try to make up lost ground.
Parental concern about learning loss isn’t unfounded, given that “children can lose one to three months of learning during the summer, and that loss can be compounded over the summer,” said Cindy Jones, a former teacher and current director of Utah State’s Literacy Clinic, in an email.
Some of the best ways to do this require tools and skills that many parents already have at hand. Jones recommends that parents and other caretakers do two key things to keep their kids learning: promote their children’s enjoyment of reading and increase children’s access to books and opportunities to read.
“Parents sometimes ask about specific reading programs, but it actually works better if they will read and talk and share fun experiences using books with their children over the summer rather than teaching a reading program,” Jones said.
With the recent reopening of libraries in Weber and Davis counties, books are more easily accessible. Weber County Library previously announced that it has moved its summer reading programs online, with plans to hold them in person if public health guidelines allow, according to prior reporting in the Standard-Examiner.
“Often when (parents) try to teach a program, the children and the parents become frustrated and then the child hates reading — which is difficult to overcome,” Jones said. “Sadly, in the U.S., we have more people who are aliterate (can read but choose not to) than those who are illiterate. If parents can teach children the value of reading and help their children to love books, it makes a huge difference.”
Because many parents continue the demands of work during the summer, time for procuring books and reading might not be easy to come by.
To address a wide range of needs, Ogden School District holds free Summer Bridge Programs in a variety of subjects. This year, they start on June 8.
Due to the pandemic, the programs will be held virtually for the first time, and they’re now open to all students in the district, according to Carrie Maxson, equity and access supervisor for Ogden School District.
Because the programs will be held virtually, the district anticipates higher involvement than in years past, Maxson said. After families register for a program, they will be sent an email with instructions for checking out an electronic device, if they need one, she said.
Among these programs are “Literacy Grab and Go Packs,” free bundles of books that families can register for, with guides for parents, written in both English and Spanish.
Another program is a virtual LitCamp for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, which helps children and youth improve literacy while also enjoying fun activities, like virtual field trips, Maxson said. The course also has a focus on social-emotional learning in order to address the stresses that children have faced during the pandemic, she said.
A Math Boot Camp for grades three through eight and a Secondary Math Summer Learning program for students in grades nine through 12 will also be offered.
The secondary math course can help secondary students recover credit or complete coursework from the spring, Maxson said. A variety of other credit recovery courses will also be offered, according the district’s website, which has a page dedicated to the programs at summer.ogdensd.org.
Other personalized support will continue over the summer, as varied staff will be regularly reaching out to families during that time. This additional staff time over the summer will be paid for with more than one funding source, including Title I funding, funds donated by United Way of Northern Utah and CARES Act funding, Maxson said.
Pandemic-related school closures are “almost doubling (students’) summer,” Maxson said. “That’s why we want to try to reach every single student.”