Free Programs to Prevent Children's ‘Summer Slide'

If your kids love chilling during the summer, surfing the web or getting their fix of video games, there’s a good chance they’re forgetting a lot of what they learned during the school year. It’s called summer slide and education experts say it’s a problem.

“Because they don’t have those activities those resources to keep them stimulated they lose about two to three months of what they learned during the school year,” said Webber Charles with Breakthrough Miami. The program is aimed at helping low-income children succeed academically.

Breakthrough Miami offers a free summer camp at Ransom Everglades. During camp, kids play games and sports but they also have classwork including math and history. Program leaders say children who don’t get this type of stimulation during the summer break are falling behind—especially low income kids who may not have access to summer camps.

“What you have is this kind of cumulative damage to low income students where they’re losing two to three months a year every summer. By the time you get to ninth grade that explodes into a huge achievement gap between low income kids and middle income and high income students,” Charles said.

Fighting the slide doesn’t have to be expensive. There are free resources in places like the local library.

This summer at the Miami Beach library, kids are attending a free robotics camp. It’s a partnership between the Children’s Trust and Augmented Intelligence Academy.

"Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole!” shouted some of the children as the robots they had built just won a soccer match. The goal of the camp is to develop engineering and science skills while having fun.

At the local library, you can find other similar summer programs. You can also get free tickets to the most popular museums or even attend classes including art, yoga and foreign language.

Libraries in both Miami-Dade and Broward say you only need a library card to access the services.

“You don’t have to get to us because we can come to you virtually,” said Michele Stiles with Miami-Dade Public Library System

With a library card and apps like Axis 360 or Overdrive—you can read or listen to thousands of books on a cell phone, tablet or computer. Experts say reading is the most important thing kids can do to maintain their grade level skills

“The research says that in order for a student to maintain all of the learning that they’ve learned during the school year they need to read six books in a summer,” Charles said.

There are ways to figure out your child’s reading level or find a list of recommended books for your child’s grade level.

And to improve those writing skills, Quill provides free writing prompts. 

For students who want to get ahead of the pack and take free classes to earn school credits you can check out Florida Virtual School.

Although too much screen time can be bad, experts say technology can be an important academic tool, especially during the summer. Several experts recommend Khan Academy. The website offers free lessons in all sorts of subjects for all grades. It even helps students prepare for university entrance exams.

Other sites like Skillshare, Masterclass  and even YouTube, can help kids develop a new talent such as fashion design, photography or web design. No matter what the program or strategy - the key is to keep the brain working during the summer.

Kids at Breakthrough Miami said it will help with their long-term goals.

“My goal is to graduate. I want to be the second member in my family to graduate because only one person did it. So I want to graduate with one of the really good colleges in the United States and I want to make my mom proud,” said Yandi Zuniga, a Breakthrough Miami student.

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