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BRAIN DRAIN: Students lose education during summer break


Posted Monday, July 1, 2013--- 10:00 p.m.

Experts say students can lose three months of education during their summer breaks.

Summer break has surpassed being just a break. At usually two or three months off of school, it becomes a loss of knowledge gained in the prior year.

"Learning changes the brain. Every time you learn something, there are nerve cells that are making connections and they can strengthen or weaken those connections," said UW-Madison educational psychology professor, Edward Hubbard. "So when you're learning, you’re strengthening those connections in the brain at a microscopic level. But if you're not using that information, over time those connections will weaken."

Those weakened connections are referred to as the "brain drain," a concept Hubbard says has been studied since the late 70s.

In the new school year, a lot of time is lost relearning what they forgot over their time off.

"If they've lost three months of learning, the teacher is going to have to give some time to get it back," said Hubbard.

Hubbard says it's possibly more of a challenge for low income students and more of a loss in math skills than reading.

"Depending on the content area, we see differences in the amount that students lose."

There are ways to keep your student’s sharp.

"Take advantage of informal learning environments, so museums, art galleries, other things of this sort. Get the kids in there," said Hubbard. "Let them have a learning experience but not necessarily a learning experience that's sitting in a classroom."

With numerous programs and ways to keep your kids engaged in the summer, it's as easy as picking up a book.

"It's a daily thing for us," said parent, Dawn Williamson.

Anabelle and her mother, Dawn, read everyday. They make sure to keep up the habit in the summer.

"If parents commit to making those topics more enjoyable, I think kids would be willing to continue their learning in the summer," said Williamson.

A parent's involvement, Hubbard says, is key in success, and reading is a fundamental skill that can help retain other subjects.

"As long as they're reading, they're going to have that experience of reading and keeping those skills sharp and active during the summer," said Hubbard.

Half Price Books in Madison encourages reading with kids keeping a log of reading time in exchange for free books, one of many summer reading programs available.

"Programs are having an impact, and we can see when they're successful, we can almost entirely eliminate the summer learning loss," said Hubbard.

While Anabelle is just beginning her career as a student, her mother believes that instilling a habit of education outside of school early on, will keep the brain continuously fed.

"I love reading!" said Anabelle.

"I think the foundation of the love of learning and exploring new things will definitely be something that carries her through," said Williamson.

For more information on Half Price Book's summer reading program, "Feed Your Brain," head to HPB.COM/FYB. The Program runs through July, and the top reader will earn a $20 gift card.


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