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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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When considering ways to help close the achievement gap, experts and educators should keep in mind the many benefits of summer learning opportunities, according to this New America Media article by Irene Florez. Parents are key to the success of these activities.

“We know that children learn anywhere and anytime,” says M. Elena Lopez, associate director of Harvard Family Research Project, and that “summer abounds with learning opportunities.” Lopez stresses that summer is an important time for parents to become engaged in their children’s learning to help address education gaps.  

Steep learning loss can result from a lack of mental stimulation during the summer, states Ashley Washington, director of Academic Success at The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, but “there’s a lot that parents can do to offset the summer brain drain, including reading with their children, taking educational field trips, and seeking math-related activities.” While all children benefit from summer learning, educators note that poverty, lack of background knowledge, and other issues can put some children at a particular disadvantage during the school year and interfere with learning. Low-achieving students may need additional time to master content. Summer learning experiences can provide these children with opportunities to catch up on some of the basics that they may have missed in the school classroom. Schools can also help these children by supporting parent engagement in their children’s learning in the summer.

“Children spend only 20 percent of their waking time annually in formal classroom education,” according to Lopez. “That leaves 80 percent of their time for exploring and enhancing their learning interests in non-school settings.” Summer can provide valuable opportunities for children to stay engaged in creative, inspiring, and intellectually stimulating activities so that they can start the school year ahead ready to learn.  

Read Fighting the Achievement Gap, in the Summer

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project