How to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

Use It or Lose It: Tips To Keep Concepts Fresh and the Mind Alert

BETHESDA, MD (July 13, 2015) In the midst of summer break, the last thing on students’ minds is continuing the learning process. While there’s non-academic learning and value derived through play, when reading, writing and intellectual pursuits stop, so does the mind’s ability to retain complex information and concepts learned during the school year. A hefty one to three months of learned material is lost as a result decreased educational activity during the summer.

“During the summer, kids routinely lose roughly half of the concepts they learned during the school year, putting them at a major disadvantage when they re-enter school,” said Peter Riddle, learning expert and co-founder of Empowered Learning Transformation Centers (ELTC). “Summer Brain Drain means teachers must re-teach concepts and lose valuable time to introduce more sophisticated material. Kids need to keep reading, writing and arithmetic skills strong with daily exposure. American students continue to be outpaced academically, with US schools ranking 17th among other developed countries, and would benefit from longer school years that many other countries have in place. Summer brain drain reduces the brain’s neuroplasticity, the ability to rewire itself through the formation of neural connections as a response to new situations or environmental changes, and ability to retain content.”

Teenagers and children tend to choose lighter reading materials during summer, such as magazines, graphic novels, and comic books and spend more time on the internet and social media. “Disciplining the mind is a critical skill for kids to develop and it’s the bedrock of being successful academically and in other realms,” explained Riddle. “Einstein says ‘focus is genius,’ but I believe ‘genius is focus.’ The ability to focus is the ability to access your core skills. Mind discipline evolves with emotional maturity and grows from determination and practice. Unfortunately, that discipline is quickly eroded when distractions like social media and overexposure to technology and TV come into play. The addictive qualities of technology is evident especially in kids’ decreasing ability to focus solely on one activity at a time and the decline in low-tech activities like book reading, camping, bike riding or board game playing.”

Riddle attributes brain drain to premature exposure to TV, thanks to parents “parking” kids in front of TV screens with non-stop stimulation that makes reading a book a challenge when the eyes must move over “still” pages and process concepts with far greater effort. “The more time a child can spend outside being stimulated through physical activity or the peaceful qualities of nature and avoid long hours in front of the computer or TV screen, the more active and neuroplastic their brain stays, lessening brain drain and the need for addictive tech stimulation,” said Mr. Riddle. “In the summer, it is especially important to keep children engaged in the learning process as a way to prepare not just for the next school year, but for life. There is a direct correlation between lower reading and math scores with the amount of hours that a child spends in front TV or computer. If a child spends more than eleven hours a week in front of a TV/computer, you will begin to see the negative effects on their comprehension abilities. With this being said, the average American child spends 36 hours in front of the TV/computer.”

Riddle suggests kids and parents sign contracts which spell out non-negotiable goals, such as book reading along with:

  1. Encourage Reading: Compliment reading with a fun activity (e.g., If you read a little each day, we can do a fun activity you enjoy).
  2. Create Balance: Make sure that children are diversifying their day by incorporating physical activity and spending time outdoors.
  3. Keep Up with Current Events: Incorporate discussion of current events into your meal-time conversation.
  4. Find Teachable Moments: Work learning activities into everyday life to keep their brain sharp (e.g., Ask your child to find the percentage of tax on an item at a store).
  5. Summer Learning: Enroll in a summer school course in an area that your child enjoys, such as computer programming, cooking, dance or soccer.
Ricardo Gonzalez