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Academic skills may weaken during summertime

(back to camera) Elizabeth Diaz, Raven Crane, (facing camera) Marisabelle Hernandez, Keiyanai Bell and Cedric Patterson are among the Springfield students taking part in the program. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Summer vacation may be a great time for some children, but for others it can be time when advances in learning may suffer.

Over 1,300 children in Springfield, Holyoke and Franklin County are keeping their academic skills sharpened by participating in the HASBRO Summer Learning Initiative. That figure is a 500-student increase over the number of children who participated last year.

Mayor Charles Ryan saluted the second year of the effort to prevent students from suffering from learning loss with a proclamation on Thursday morning. Ryan met with officials from the United Way of the Pioneer Valley and Springfield Day Nursery, among other organizations, at the Sumner Avenue Elementary School.

According to information released by the Center for Summer Learning, all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. On the average students lost about 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months.

And low-income students experience greater summer learning losses than their higher income peers. By the end of fifth grade low-income students can fall more than two years behind their middle-income peers in verbal skills.

The United Way of the Pioneer Valley collaborated with the HASBRO Corporation, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, WestMOST Network and the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation in creating the initiative.

Carla Lee, the director of the program, said the initiative works with 22 agencies that provide services for youth. The agencies recruit the children for the program and the initiative works with them in developing six different curriculums, including "Explore Springfield" and another on fitness and nutrition.

Lee said the themes are carried through the length of the summer program with a variety of activities that are both fun and engaging.

The Center for Summer Learning reports that for children who are not attending a formal summer learning program that reading four to five books over the summer had a positive impact on reading achievement tests. Apparently there were no significant differences over which kind of books the children read.