Chang-September is Attendance Awareness Month-MainPhoto

Chang-September is Attendance Awareness Month-MainPhoto

Every year, an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million U.S. students miss nearly a month of school, and often their parents don’t realize how quickly the absences add up. This isn’t just a matter of high school students skipping school—many of these chronically absent kids are in kindergarten, and many of their absences are excused.

But regardless of the reason, too many absences wear away at academic performance, leaving kids struggling to read in the early grades and more likely to drop out later. If too many children are missing too much school, it affects learning for the whole classroom as teachers spend time repeating material they’ve already taught.

Read Related: Best Ways to Support Your Child’s Education

So how many absences are too many? Research shows that missing 10 percent of the school year is the tipping point, where absenteeism correlates with weaker performance at all ages. That’s about 18 days in a school year—or just two days a month. And that can add up before parents or teachers realize it.

September is Attendance Awareness Month and some 40 organizations and 1,000 schools and community groups are working to spread the word about the importance of going to school every day. Here, we share their ideas for how parents can ensure their children attend school regularly:

1. Establish basic routines: Set bedtime and morning routines. For younger children, lay out clothes and pack backpacks the night before. Create a checklist and let your child check off tasks. For older students, have a plan for finishing homework on time and getting to bed about the same time each night.

2. Teach your children that attendance is important and show him you mean it: Don’t plan medical or dental appointments during the school day or take extended trips when school is in session. Don’t let children stay home unless they are truly sick. Keep in mind that complaints of a stomach ache or headache can sometimes be a sign that your child is anxious about something at school.

3. If your children seem reluctant to go, find out why and work with teachers, counselors or afterschool providers to figure out how to get them excited about school.

4. Develop backup plans for getting to school. Identify who you can turn to—another family member, a neighbor or fellow parents—to help you get your children to school if something comes up.

5. Reach out for help if you are experiencing tough times. Problems with transportation, housing, jobs or your health can make it hard to get your children to school. Remember that school officials, afterschool providers and community agencies can help.

Attendance Works, a national initiative that promotes better practice and policy around school attendance, offers a range of free handouts and banners in English and Spanish explaining the importance of showing up for school.

The Ad Council recently launched its Boost Attendance campaign “Absences Add Up.” The campaign includes a Text2Track program that allows parents to track their children’s attendance through texts.