Summer Break Is upon Us

As schools throughout the country cut back, there are new possibilities for neighbors to become a “village that teaches a child.” One of the most inventive people engaging neighbors as producers is Ray Thompson. In his July 2010 blog he suggests how a neighborhood could educate its children this summer.

You’ll find Ray’s blog an exciting exploration of the neighborhood possibilities for creating a satisfying and productive life. Visit his website and contact him at [email protected]

 ~ John ~

Summer Break Is Upon Us – Will Our Children Continue Learning?

July 23rd, 2010

According to John Hopkins University’s Center for Summer Learning our children experience learning losses when they do not engage in academic activities during the summer ( This is a hot topic amongst teachers returning from summer break. Computational skills and reading comprehension take a big hit. The article states, “Summer learning loss contributes to the achievement gap in reading performance between lower and higher income children and youth. Research demonstrates that while student achievement for both middle- and lower-income students improves at similar rates during the school year, low-income students experience cumulative summer learning losses over the elementary school grades (Alexander & Entwisle, 1996).”  In many cases students return losing 2-4 months of “grade level equivalency”. This is significant for teachers. Due to the loss, teachers take time to implement meaningful in-class remedial opportunities, while intending to stay on task with current grade level curriculum.

The article, written for academic and policy wonks, provides a bevy of institutionally related solutions. Community organizations are mentioned as partners in a few solutions, but only in direct relationship to a university partner providing students as interns or in collaborations with public agencies in quasi-formal educational settings. Sounds boring to me….

There are other ways to encourage summer learning without taking the “fun” out of summer break.  Continuous learning is an important skill in a competitive global economy and it is important community residents, associations and organizations get creative in their approach to support the academic progress of local youth.

Here are a few ideas:

• Local Spelling Bees

• Essay Contests

• Math Clubs (focusing on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions)

• Book Clubs

• Reading Contests

How do you pay for it?

We are occasionally asked to contribute to a burial or funeral of a neighbor or a friend. Let’s switch it up a bit, in addition to asking for necessary resources to handle a local death when the need arises, let us start asking to support local life, Now! Get local churches, local businesses, residents, block clubs, and local organizations to participate.

How do you promote it?

School-aged youth will participate based on the incentives you provide.  Create contests and give away books, gift certificates, music, money, clothes, shoes, etc.  Have a contest with prizes once a month. Start small with 2-4 blocks at a time. Make sure the blocks are full of children. Place a limit on the number of participants until your group has enough volunteer participation to manage the contest. Make it a neighborhood effort. Publicize your results and make plans for next year.

Posted in TCRG BLOG

About the Lead Author

Ray Thompson
Ray Thompson
Ray Thompson has worked in a range of professional capacities for respected Chicago area social service agencies and educational institutions His passion is sparking sustainable and scalable local community change with local people. His firm, Thompson Community Relations Group, is a community-centered and people-focused consultancy supporting local people, associations and organizations in their community building efforts. TCRG implements asset based community development strategies that promote intentional relationship building amongst residents and local organizations. They then support communities in uncovering local synergy and mobilizing local skills, talents, resources, and capacities for innovative and sustainable community change.

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