TEMPLE, Texas — Kids want to play outside, hang out with their friends and sleep in whenever they can, but it’s important to keep them learning over the summer so they can retain some of the information they learned in school.

"Just like our muscles can atrophy after they've not had very much experience, so too can our brain take a little bit of a dip," said Carrie Parker, the Directory of Elementary Curriculum for Killeen ISD.

That dip Parker is referring to is known as the "summer slide," a runaway freight train that causes students to fall behind and teachers to have to work harder to catch everyone up at the start of the new school year.

Gisela Smith, a grandmother of a student in KISD, said the summer months are crucial. She said the summer slide and its potential to wreak havoc on a child's education is "very terrifying." 

"What they learn now, they will keep forever," Smith said. "When they start first grade, they will know so much already."

Researchers with Oxford Learning said kids lose as much as two months of math and reading skills over the summer months. Teachers spend six weeks reteaching old material.

Statistically, Scholastic said the slide accounts for 85% of the reading achievement gap between low income and middle to upper-income children.

To help parents and students, Killeen ISD has implemented the Summer Take Home Backpack Reading Program, aimed at sharpening minds and fighting back against the slide, which gets worse every year.

"We really try to work with parents, especially early on," Parker said. "That first four to six weeks of school is crucial to development before moving on to the current curriculum."

Here are some tips for helping your kids retain the information they know but also have an enjoyable summer experience.

  • Head to the library. Local libraries usually have summer reading programs. Be sure to contact your local library to see what’s available.
  • Keep them active. Whether it’s being outside with friends or playing organized sports, kids are engaging their mind and bodies when they’re being active. Kids who sit inside watching TV or YouTube videos usually are not.
  • Cook with them. This is a two-for-one as kids both learn about and get healthy nutrients in their diet. You can also challenge your kids to try new recipes with different fruits and vegetables.
  • Explore together. Take your kids out on a hike, to the zoo, or even just to the backyard to learn about the environment. See if your kids want to learn about specific animals, and if they do, this can help them with their reading, research and organization skills.
  • Participate in National Summer Learning Week. National Summer Learning Week takes place from July 8-13 this year and is dedicated to keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer. Check out their website to see what will be going on!

Experts say parents should set summer limits for passive activities such as watching videos and keep a routine by setting a bedtime for kids and their devices.

Smith, who is participating in this years reading program with her granddaughter, said as the summer ramps up, she is worried and the worst possible outcome for some students is clear.

"They get set back," she said. "You know they go to school and they forgot a lot and they might get a worse grade, get a negative grade."

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