Posted by: Barry | July 22, 2010

Making Summer Wonderful

I’m happy to see that Time magazine posted a great article on its website today about the value of summer camp experiences like those ABLE Families offers.  All the more important, from our perspective here, is that the article emphasizes the importance of making these experiences accessible to children of low-income families. 

The whole article is worth a look, but here’s a snippet:

Children with access to high-quality experiences can exercise their minds and bodies at sleep-away camp, on family vacations, in museums and libraries and enrichment classes. Meanwhile, children without resources languish on street corners or in front of glowing screens. By the time the bell rings on a new school year, the poorer kids have fallen weeks, if not months, behind. And even well-off American students may be falling behind their peers around the world.

And what starts as a hiccup in a 6-year-old’s education can be a crisis by the time that child reaches high school. A major study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University concluded that while students made similar progress during the school year, regardless of economic status, the better-off kids held steady or continued to advance during the summer — while disadvantaged students fell back. By the end of grammar school, low-income students had fallen nearly three grade levels behind. By ninth grade, roughly two-thirds of the learning gap separating income groups could be blamed on summer learning loss.

Time makes a point that I try to be clear about when I talk to folks about our daycamps: this is not just about providing the kids with something fun to do during summer vacation (though talking to the kids who come to our camps leaves absolutely no doubt that it does do that!). 

It’s about providing enriching experiences that complement, support, and build upon the education that our schools and families are trying to provide.   It’s about giving them one more block to help build the foundation for a lifetime of physical, emotional, intellectual growth — rather than the stagnation and indifference that all kids (but perhaps kids living in poverty most of all) are susceptible to.

I only have one problem with the Time article.  The opening paragraph basically starts with, ‘Unfortunately everyone thinks summer is about having fun.  Bah-humbug.  Summer should not be about fun!  It should be about learning!

I suppose that makes sense, if the only thing you can think of when you want to have fun (as is the case with so many kids today) is your X-Box or your DVD player.  But not if you see what goes on at camps like ours. 

Again this year, we received more registrations than we could possibly accomodate.  That’s because after a decade of ABLE Families summer camps, local kids know they’re fun. 

But while providing the fun activities, we’re getting our kids — almost without their realizing it! — to swim and run, investigate and solve, count and measure, read and write, explore and imagine, eat healthy and think hard.

I can’t think of a more exciting way to spend a summer.

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