• imgs
    Aging Well Partners
  • Aug 04
  • 3 min

How Older Adults Are “Hitting Pause” on the Summer Slide

How Older Adults Are “Hitting Pause” on the Summer Slide

In 1996, researchers conducted the first study of children’s learning loss over the summer. They found that kids lose significant amounts of reading and math learning over the summer. On average, children lose 20% of their school-year gains over the summer, which equates to 2 months of learning. Children whose families are struggling financially feel these losses even more keenly. Unfortunately, learning loss is compounded year-over-year, leading to lower grades, frustration, and lost confidence. San Diego’s older adults have seen this need and are rising to the occasion in many ways.

For 30 years, local older adults have dedicated their time to supporting children in their neighborhoods and working with them to increase their reading skills. Volunteers are trained by San Diego Oasis and placed in an elementary school a few minutes from their homes. The older adult volunteer is paired with a 1st-5th grader struggling with reading and literacy or needs a confidence-boosting mentorship. The volunteers meet with their students once a week throughout the school year. The benefits of this program are impressive by the end of the school year.

• The students have increased their reading to grade level.
• The student is more apt to take risks in class, like raising their hand.
• The student is less likely to be truant.

If a student ends the school year successfully and has been given the opportunity to find joy and success in reading, they will be more likely to read during the summer and start the new year in a stronger place.

Last year, San Diego Oasis’ tutoring volunteers took a more direct step toward slowing the summer slide. The organization created an intergenerational summer camp in a unique, first-ever effort. Older adult volunteers and 1st-4th grade students met at a local school every day for a week. They created art, stories, and memories that will last a lifetime. This year, San Diego Oasis will expand the summer camp to five full, fun-filled weeks.

Actplay during the camp will include the creation of portable Kamishibai theaters students can take home, a meet-and-greet with North American animals like porcupines, and the opportunity to play on percussion instruments. In addition, each day will feature Storytime in small groups, and the kids can take home a copy of each day’s book. By making reading, writing, and storytelling a camp focus, San Diego Oasis’ volunteers hope to maintain this school year’s learning gains and even increase them!

Would you like to make a difference in kids’ lives this summer? There are many ways to do so.
• Volunteer at your local library.
• Organize a book drive for your local elementary school or nonprofit organization.
• Get trained as an intergenerational tutor before the 2023-2024 school year begins. Contact Michelle Irby at Michelle@sandiegooasis.org or (619) 881-6262 for more information.
You can also help the children in your life fight the summer slide.
• Encourage them to participate in a summer reading challenge – perhaps you could add an extra incentive, like a visit to the zoo.
• Find opportunities to tell stories to each other. This is an excellent opportunity to stretch the imagination or get to know each other through autobiographical storytelling.
• Hearing fluent reading is integral to learning to read, so don’t be shy about reading aloud. If the child is older, you can trade off – listen for a page, then read for a page.
• If you’re far away, you can create a book club and discuss chapters over the phone or on Zoom.

While summer reading loss is a big problem, it is not insurmountable. If community members like you chip in, we can support our children, propel their reading skills, and encourage them to find the joy in reading and literature.

San Diego Oasis is a local nonprofit working to empower older adults and give them the tools they need to make a difference. San Diego Oasis is celebrating their 35th year of promoting healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles, and volunteer engagement. San Diego Oasis is currently located in La Mesa and Rancho Bernardo. You can also find educational and volunteer opportunities through County by visiting sandiegooasis.org