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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — School is letting out for kids everywhere, and while summer vacation is fun, summer learning loss is a real problem.

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One study cited by Brookings Institute found that kids in grades 2 to 9 lost 25 to 30 percent of their school year learning over the summer. The problem disproportionately affects low income students who may not be able to afford camps and vacations that help prevent learning loss.

There are many free and inexpensive and easy ways to keep your kids minds’ growing this summer. When you can’t take a vacation to far off places, books can be a great way to travel to places real and imagined.

“Lots of fairy books,” is what Calliope Hollidge, an elementary school-aged girl from Pittsburgh plans to read this summer. “My favorite types of fairies are animal fairies.”

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)


Zadok Gilson, also a student from Pittsburgh, was at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh looking for books. “I’m just gonna read pretty much anything… anything I can get my hands on.”

When kids find books they like, reading doesn’t feel like schoolwork. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a summer reading program to encourage kids to read. They’re giving kids a free book to keep after they read their first book and another free book after reading four more. The main Carnegie Library in Oakland kicks off the summer reading program with an “Extravaganza” event this Sunday, June 10, from noon until 5 p.m.

“There’s something for little ones, story time, toys outside, music outside. There will be live performances,” says Shannon Barron, Children’s Department manager at the library.

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There will also be food trucks, library tours, chess lessons, and a used book sale. You can sign up for the summer reading program there or online.

But don’t forget math, because math scores slide even more than English. Now, new apps are making math fun. Common Sense Media recommends the free app “Motion Math.” It turns math into a game for everything from addition and subtraction to fractions and graphing.

“Prodigy Math” is also free and lets kids choose an avatar, using math to defeat monsters.

“Sushi Monster” is great for memorizing addition and multiplication tables.

For $3.99 a month, “Marble Math” uses mazes to encourage kids to solve math problems, and for $7.99 a month, “Dragonbox Big Numbers” creates a whimsical land called “Noomia” to master more advanced math skills.

Another way to keep math skills up in the summer is to work in math in everyday routines, like at the grocery store or cooking, and play games that involve math, like Yahtzee and Monopoly.


In the end, it often comes down to parents encouraging and rewarding children for taking a few minutes every day to keep their minds active over summer break. It’s something they’ll be glad they did when school starts up again.

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“Books are the key to knowing and understanding whatever you’re interested in,” says parent Beckty Spevack. “I’m a huge reader, and if I can pass that on to (my children), that will be one of my biggest successes as a parent.”

Kristine Sorensen