Sept. 26, 2019

Summer Offers Opportunities for Social and Academic Growth, But Can Also Put Disadvantaged Children at Risk

WASHINGTON – Summer is a chance for children and youth to continue developing, but for those living in disadvantaged communities, summertime experiences can lead to worse health, social, emotional, academic, and safety outcomes, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report lays out nine recommendations to address obstacles that disadvantaged children can face during the summer, including lack of access to quality programs, food insecurity, and exposure to unsafe and dangerous conditions, and to help all children develop positively and stay connected to resources.

Shaping Summertime Experiences: Opportunities to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being for Children and Youth focuses on addressing these concerns:

“While summer is a time of opportunity that adds to some children’s school experience, for others it can mean missed meals, more risk for harm, and a lack of chances to move forward in their academic and social development,” said Martín-José Sepúlveda, retired vice president, IBM Corp., and chair of the committee that authored the report. “Our recommendations are meant to give communities a path forward so all kids can have summers that help them grow and be ready to achieve once school resumes.”

Local governments should establish a quality-management system in order to find and provide positive summertime experiences for children, the report says. Governments should evaluate existing programs and services, assess community needs, identify gaps between current and needed programs, address prioritized needs, and develop and measure outcomes. The committee also recommended an emphasis on reaching underserved communities, including children who are American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, immigrant, migrant and refugee, homeless, system-involved, LGBTQ+, and those with special health care or developmental needs.

While the report’s recommendations focus on how communities can improve structured opportunities during summertime, unstructured time can also be an opportunity for cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. The committee found an immense lack of comprehensive data on children’s summer experiences. Existing data systems do not adequately capture seasonal differences in children’s academic, health, social, emotional, and safety needs, or how children spend most of their unstructured summer time, making it difficult to fully understand their experiences. The report recommends both government and non-government organizations that collect data on children should disaggregate this data by month. Data collection should extend beyond the academic year, and should be shared across systems. Future research needs include longitudinal studies examining summertime experiences, structured and unstructured time, and effects on long-term developmental outcomes.

The study — undertaken by the Committee on the Summertime Experiences and Child and Adolescent Education, Health, and Safety — was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Wallace Foundation. The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

Report Highlights

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Megan Lowry, Media Relations Officer

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