Read Today: Utahns discuss necessity of summer vacation


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SALT LAKE CITY -- The cover story of this week's Time magazine makes a case that affects every Utah family: it's time to do away with summer vacation.

The article has raised an important question: is summer break a waste, or a necessity?

Playground parties and neighborhood picnics are as much a part of summer as school isn't. Many Utah parents, teachers and kids want to maintain that tradition.


Summer is a great time to play and have fun, and kids need that.

–London Brown


"I think, don't mess with a good thing," says parent Melanie Bruse. "I think summer break is really important for families."

Most kids agree. One child we talked to says, "Summer is supposed to be fun. You're supposed to play with your friends."

They see summer as a time for building social skills and family learning.

"School is important, but every child's number one teacher is their parent," says kindergarten teacher Penny Bradshaw.


I think it might benefit some of our students to lengthen the instructional time, either more hours in the school day or lengthen the year.

–Jason Olsen


Parent London Brown argues kids need some time to take a break. "Summer is a great time to play and have fun, and kids need that," Brown says.

But many educators say the problem is summer isn't the same for all kids. The summer slide for many low-income children is simply the time when they lose up to a quarter of what they learned during the school year.

"Especially those who don't have a parent that can read to them. The parent is working two jobs to support the family," says Jason Olsen with the Salt Lake City School District. "That's where you see the biggest impact in the summer learning loss."

In fact, Time calls summer vacation among "the most pernicious -- if least-acknowledged -- causes of achievement gaps in America's schools."

The effect is cumulative. As Waterford Research Institute shows, over time, average students make steady progress. Kids who aren't learning over several summers lose a few years of academic growth.

"I think it might benefit some of our students to lengthen the instructional time, either more hours in the school day or lengthen the year," says Olsen.

But Salt Lake City district officials figure it costs about $4,000 per school for every added day, so every option in the summer vacation equation can carry a steep cost.

One thing that can bridge that learning gap is summer reading. Register your kids in Deseret Media Companies' Read Today Summer Reading Challenge so they can log their minutes and become eligible for prizes.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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Nadine Wimmer

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