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Perspective | Be a 2023 summer learning superhero

Summer is just around the corner and, at the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), we’re doing our part to help summer program providers be Summer Learning Superheroes. 

Why the emphasis on summer learning? Summer programs are a vital part of ongoing learning, and program providers can play an important role so summer can be both a break from school and an opportunity for learning. And that’s important to keep in mind for all breaks from school, whether planned or from a disruption like a storm or health problem. 

When we talk about summer learning, we’re not talking about being sent to summer school or forcing lessons on children when they’re not at school. Summer learning and summer school aren’t the same thing. Summer learning feels different from school, because it takes place in a variety of settings, is experiential, and combines academics, health, enrichment, and social and emotional learning. This chart from the National Summer Learning Association outlines the differences between summer school and summer learning:

Table Courtesy of the National Summer Learning Association

Did you know?

  • Recent losses are greater for math than reading. 
  • Recent assessments and evaluations indicated students’ academic performance had fallen. Some students have fallen even further behind than we expected, before the pandemic, so extra attention to prevent the “summer slide” is even more important than it was before. 
  • Nearly all students are still navigating challenges to their mental health being impacted by the pandemic, with less access to school supports and other activities, due to other recovery issues, like inflation. 
  • Elementary school students with high levels of attendance for at least five weeks in voluntary summer learning programs can experience benefits in math and reading.
  • Children who read books over the summer and school breaks can maintain or improve their literacy skills.

It’s easy to be a Summer Learning Superhero, and we want everyone to be successful. Our updated Summer Learning Toolkit has resources, tools, tips and fun learning activities that educators and summer program providers can share to empower parents and caregivers to use to help children keep learning all summer long. 

If you are a program provider, we hope the toolkit is helpful. We’re also asking our readers to share it with summer camp directors, librarians, and others who are working with children over the summer. 

What’s inside the toolkit?

  • A slide presentation with talking points for program staff to learn about the importance of summer learning and how they can contribute,
  • An Action Plan template for program providers to map out tactics to engage parents every week,
  • Three newsletter posts,
  • 24 social media posts with photos and graphics,
  • Bonus social posts promoting supporting regular school attendance,
  • 24 text messages,
  • Suggestions for celebrating Summer Learning Week,
  • and Summer Learning Week (July 10- 14) stickers. 

Remember — learning can happen everywhere. We all want to be superheroes. Here’s your chance with summer learning.

Production of our annual Summer Learning Toolkit resulted from a collaboration between NCECF and the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities. 

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Engages NC communities

Since 2015, the NCECF has served as the state lead for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in North Carolina. The national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has mobilized 300 communities across the country to ensure that more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. It is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit organizations, business leaders, and government agencies supporting children’s school readiness, summer learning, and regular school attendance.

North Carolina’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has a vision where diverse and inclusive communities grow thriving readers, beginning at birth and continuing through third grade, so each child is prepared for success. Thirteen community collaboratives, including Book Harvest in Durham, are currently participating in the North Carolina campaign.

We supported Book Harvest in creating a Parent Action Team to deepen engagement with parents of the children they serve. Parents helped develop materials and recommended outreach opportunities for Durham parents to support their children’s summer learning. From this work in Durham, we created our Summer Learning Toolkit in both English and Spanish. Our 2023 Summer Learning Toolkit is now ready for communities to share widely this summer and encourage summer reading.

Lisa Finaldi

Lisa Finaldi is the Community Engagement Leader for the NC Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), leading the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Family Forward NC initiative. She is an experienced non-profit leader at the state, national and international levels.