In August, the Board on Children, Youth, and Families at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine hosted a 1-day public workshop in Washington, D.C. that highlighted the latest research on summer programming and explored the links, both existing and potential, between summer programs and the broader ecosystem of child and adolescent learning opportunities. The workshop format was designed to stimulate discussion among individuals working in all areas of the summertime space, including program providers, researchers, funders, and policymakers. The presentations and discussions advanced our understanding of interventions designed to support school-age children (Pre-K-12) during summertime across 1) education and learning, in academic subjects and social and emotional domains, and 2) physical health, especially risk for obesity. The workshop also identified gaps in current research

 GLR Campaign Managing Director Ralph Smith's comments on are highlighted in the brief:

"The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is less of a pro- gram and more of a movement designed to address three problems," said Managing Director Ralph Smith. First, too many low-income children are too far be- hind in reading readiness when they enter kindergarten. Second, too many low-income children miss too many days of school. Third, too many children return to school in September having lost ground since June. “We built the campaign around seeking to find community-owned solutions to those three challenges,” he said.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is now active in more than 285 communities in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is sponsored by more than 2,300 local organizations and more than 250 state and local funders. Smith identified three lessons drawn from the last several years.

The first lesson is that summer needs to be rebrandedas a unique opportunity for learning. Summer can be experienced as “a time for exploration, a time for enhancement, a time for support, a time to find and fan each child’s spark, as well as for remediation. We should see all of those as part of a summer learning effort,” Smith said.

The second lesson is that communities can organize to ensure more seamless and coherent transitions from school to summer activities. Summer needs to be more than a plethora of programs from which parents must choose a single program made for part of the day and part of the summer. When schools close for the summer, families still need an institutional anchor. For example, public libraries are ideally situated as omnipresent, ubiquitous institutions, a place that can accommodate a two-generation approach. “In those communities where public libraries are seen as the summer successor to schools,” Smith noted, “we’re beginning to see a qualitative difference in the relation- ship with kids and families.”

The third lesson is that the consumers of summer activities need to be informed to make good decisions. “That means we need to focus on good and timely in- formation as well as the tips and tools that will ensure accessibility, availability, and meet the challenge of affordability.”

“Summer is a time when we could customize and personalize sets of programs, supports, and interventions that would allow [low-income students] not only to avoid the summer slide, but also to catch up and even leapfrog” their peers, said Smith. The challenge and opportunity is to take 200 to 300 hours over 8 to 10 weeks and produce significantly better outcomes. “The opportunity is boundless to use the summer months as a resource for learning—learning in the fullest sense of the word—while simultaneously addressing the needs of low-income children,” Smith said. 

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Summertime Opportunities to Promote Healthy Child and Adolescent Development Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief

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Ernestine Benedict, Chief Communications Officer

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