Make the summer “daze” learning days!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

If I could give every student just three educational gifts, the first one would be a love of reading. The second would be a LIBRARY CARD with a commitment from a parent to take that child to the library as often as possible. The third one would be the gift of reading aloud to that child every single day. Children who are interested readers and interested learners tend to lead successful lives.
If you read my last story on the “SUMMER SLIDE” [ICT, volume 8 issue 23] you will know what research said on this topic. What is the “summer slide?” The summer slide is the decline in reading achievement that children suffer just from being away from school. Parents, remember reading like playing a musical instrument, is not something that is mastered once and for all at a certain age. It is a skill that continues to improve through practice.

Thus, my resolve is to get everyone involved in summer reading. With access to books and reading encouragement, kids can avoid the summer slide. Studies show that reading just five or six books over the summer can be enough to maintain reading skills. It is important to note that the amount of time that students spend reading for fun is the key predictor of students’ academic achievement, and what better time to read for enjoyment than the summer time.

Everyone needs to understand that learning doesn’t take a vacation. It’s up to our parents to encourage our children to be active learners during the summer months. Last issue I listed a number of school summer sites for parents to consider and there may be some openings so call the schools to see if any slots are still open.

Again, the best buy in this community is a visit to the Worcester Public Library, for it’s free and the library opens the door to learning. Also, libraries give out free or low-cost passes to museums, and other places of interest. They also sponsor reading or other learning programs. During the month of July, they already have programs such as “Reading Aloud to toddlers and infants,” and“Kid Flicks every Friday at 10 a.m. Others programs include: “Mad Scientist,” “Scavenger Hunt,” “Astronauts get Dressed,” “Alien Cartooning,” and my favorite – “Stories under the Stars (aka PJ stories).” Call the library for the time and dates of the events. And the best part! These great programs are FREE.

Let me emphasize that reading aloud to young children is the most important way to get them started on the road to being a successful reader. Read to and with your child as often as possible. This is a way to spend time with your children, and if it’s convenient for you, read at bed time. Twenty minutes of reading aloud will accomplish more than you could ever measure.

Keep book, magazine, and newspapers in the home and be a reading role model. Be sure to obtain a library card for your child and then visit the library and take books home. Libraries also loan out movies and CD’s. A child who is a reluctant reader might be more interested in reading a book once he/she has seen the movie. Comic books are also a great way to get your child to read and build his/her vocabulary.

Studies have found that children gain reading skills when they read any format they want, including comic books and teen romances. In fact, according to research, reading gains were even better than those gained from direct reading instruction.

During the summer time, turn off the TV at least one hour every evening for reading and game-time activities. A sure way to encourage reading is by showing your child some great books and start reading to him/her a few of the pages. Then make time to discuss what your child has read and show enthusiasm about what your child has to say about the book. Try becoming a reading family, and if you go to the pool or the play ground, bring books to share.

Other summer tips are having your child read about his/her own hobbies. Keep a few of your child’s books in the place where he spends most of his time, such as in the living room near the television set or in the bedroom, on the bed stand. These books should be changed and new ones put in their places. Much learning takes place at play time. Buy and have your child play with games that have an educational value.

Remember, studies have shown that all children are likely to lose some of their learning gains during the summer. For the average student, this loss amounts to at least a few months worth of learning. Parents need to keep their children sharp. These research findings can help point the way:

• The number of books read during the summer is consistently related to academic gains.

• Children in every income group who read five or more books over the summer are likely to gain more in reading skills than children who don’t.

• Children read more when they see other people reading. Parents can be models by letting their children see them reading for pleasure.

We read to write and write to read so let’s be sure to reinforce both in an enjoyable way. Consider making a summer memory book and if need be you write down what the child dictates in print so it can be reread many times, and include photos. Send letters to grandparents too and any child can write to me about what book they enjoyed reading. Send your letter to John Monfredo c/o InCity Times. I’ll be sure to write back! How about a diary of the “Summer of 2009”? Your child can write a paragraph or two daily of what happened during his/her summer vacation. It can be spruced up with drawings or photos of summer activities, too.

Another good idea is to start a mystery writing game with your children – see if they can guess where you are going on vacation or where you are going to take them Saturday afternoon. Have them write letters asking questions and write letters back giving them clues.

As for math, use a reward system to encourage your children to help you figure out the gas mileage of your car in return for an ice -cream cone. Let’s look at other math ideas for the summer:

• Be sure that your child has mastered his/her math facts. Depending on the grade, ask facts on addition or multiplication as you go for a walk or as you drive to the store – make it into a game.

• Play cards such as war and when one turns over a card you need to call out the two cards with multiplication answer. Example 9 and 8 – call out 72. (Same for addition and subtraction facts)

• If your child is having difficulty with multiplication tables, buy or make flash cards and use them on a regular basis.

• Encourage help when you bake and give your child practical experience. Mention the size of the containers, such as pints of cream and half gallons of milk. Read the directions with your child and have him/her do the measuring with you.

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