What Youth Workers Can Do to Prevent the Summer Slide

As the last day of school approaches, youth workers are planning ways to prevent the “Summer Slide”. This isn’t some dangerous piece of playground equipment. Summer Slide refers to the loss of what students have learned during the academic year when they are on summer break. This phenomenon can cause huge setbacks in learning achieved over the school year and forces teachers to spend weeks reviewing material in the fall when students return.

The Summer Slide has been well-documented. Studies have shown that,

– Over the summer there is an average loss of two months of grade level equivalency in math and reading.

-Summer learning loss is cumulative. Over time it can cause between 2 to 5 years of learning loss by the time a student reaches high school.

-Summer Slide has a greater impact on low-income students, which contributes to the achievement gap between them and their higher income peers.  

A variety of simple and inexpensive summer learning activities can prevent the Summer Slide.

Youth programs don’t have to spend a lot of money on activities that prevent summer learning loss. Some easy, free or low-cost activities include:

  • Offering opportunities to read – whether silent, out-loud, alone or in groups. Reading builds listening skills, engages the imagination, and increases vocabulary.
  • Reading for different reasons – directions for a recipe, articles on Wikipedia, newspaper cartoons, song lyrics. There are so many ways we read; expose youth to as many as possible this summer!
  • Practicing writing skills – youth can write letters and even simple postcards to friends and family, keep a summer journal or write an online blog, song or story.
  • Encouraging math skills – connect activities as much as possible to youth’s real world experiences; money and measurements are less intimidating than worksheets.

There are countless ways for youth to engage in learning throughout the summer. You can find activities online or contact your local library or school for guidance.

The Summer Slide is a community issue that can only be solved when all stakeholders are engaged.

Families play a big role in keeping their children learning over the summer. With the involvement of schools and community partners, we can ensure that youth have opportunities to learn wherever they are.

Amy O’Brien, Deputy Director of the Learning First Alliance, says “Children are always somewhere during the summer — day care, day camp, overnight camp, or elsewhere. By partnering with the institutions already serving students during the summer and aligning their programming with academic goals, schools and districts can have a big impact on summer learning loss without the costs associated with running their own programs.”

Preventing Summer Slide is just one way that high-quality youth programs save taxpayer dollars. These programs also improve public safety and help youth build protective factors that help them navigate the transition to adulthood.

Looking for youth programs that offer summer programming? Check out YIPA’s Membership Directory to find a youth program near you. Enjoy the summer!


Maggie Dudley is the Membership Director for the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA)