Summer is a time for warm outdoor adventures, grilling, swimming and a whole lot of unstructured fun.

It also triggers a mass exodus of math and reading skills from children’s minds as recent classroom lessons quickly fade from memory.

“The first few weeks of school always ends up with us re-teaching and trying to get everyone back into the pattern of learning,” said John Lamb, gifted and talented coordinator for Fountain-Fort Carson High School.

This brain drain of skills, often called the “summer slide,” results in teachers rehashing old material at the beginning of each year. This re-teaching is especially significant when you consider the already jam-packed curriculum schedules.

Unfortunately, research shows this issue compounds over every child’s lifespan. It’s an even larger issue for children in families with lower incomes.

By the time students reach ninth grade, the gap in reading comprehension widens between students from lower-income households and their peers from more affluent households. At least two-thirds of that gap is due to summer slide, a study by Johns Hopkins University found.

“We see the research show that kids, especially kids in low-income homes, lose about three full months of knowledge each summer,” Lamb said.

The good news? Students who participate in summer learning programs successfully retain a lot of their math and reading skills over the summer.

Enter Pikes Peak Library District

Summer Adventure, the library’s summer reading program presented by Children’s Hospital Colorado, is a no-cost, two-month-long program hosted online, and at each of PPLD’s 14 libraries.

“We do this program for a variety of reasons, but one of our biggest drivers is our passion for helping students stay mentally engaged over the summer,” said Nancy Maday, director of children’s services for Pikes Peak Library District. “We have seen firsthand the impact this program can have on kids throughout the Pikes Peak region, and the teachers we work with can vouch for that.”

Of course, there are summer camps and programs galore from which parents can choose. But, many of them can be expensive and beyond the means of families with limited budgets. Afterschool Alliance, an organization working to ensure children have access to quality afterschool programs, estimates that the average summer program costs $288 per child, per week.

Aside from the money, there’s the time

Parents with full-time or multiple jobs scramble to find childcare options for their students who suddenly find themselves at home all day for several weeks, with ample time to read, learn and explore a Universe of Stories.

“What’s great about Summer Adventure is the huge variety of activities we have available throughout the day and at all of our locations,” Maday said. “We try to make it really accessible, knowing different parents and children have different needs.”

The library will hold age-appropriate activities for children ages zero to 18 from June 1 to July 31. Summer Adventurers can use the physical game card, available at every library starting June 1, or track their progress online.

Avid readers can complete the whole program just by reading, but anyone can do a combination of reading and activities to reach the Summer Adventure finish line. There are levels throughout the program, and each will result in a prize based on the participant’s age. Suggested activities are listed on the game card; some are ideas to help you jump start time with your child, while others involve picking a library program to attend. A full list of searchable programs is available at ppld.librarymarket.com.

“Pikes Peak Library District’s program gets kids excited about reading over the summer. We want kids to read what they want rather than forcing their choices. We just want to remind them to keep reading,” Lamb said.

The adventure starts on June 1. Learn more at ppld.org/summer-adventure.