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got your kid through another elementary school year.
The teacher gave you (whoops, make
that your kid) a good grade on the book report. You recalled your papier-mâché skills just in time to help
build that wildlife diorama. You drilled her on times tables and quizzed her during dinner about the difference between herbivores and carnivores, and guess what?
The grades are in, and you guys (oh wait, we meant your daughter) will graduate
to 4th grade come fall.
Phew! Bring on summer
Except now you're on the hook in a different way. Ever heard of the phenomenon called "summer
slide"? Researchers at the Rand Corp. found that, on average, American students
lose an entire month's worth of education each year due to the academic
wasteland that is summer vacation.
But that's on average. There's lots of
summertime intervention that can help. Here at mom.me, we know that you are
overwhelmed enough, juggling your own responsibilities, as well as the kids' newfound
downtime and the general schedule disruption that is an extended school break.
So we've talked to Rebecca Silverman, the educational consultant for the PBS
Kids show "Martha Speaks," about easy,
doable ways you can help your kids keep their skills sharp during these fuzzy
days of summer.
American students lose an entire month's worth of education each year due to the academic wasteland that is summer vacation.
The show itself aims
to help. Leading into National Summer Learning Day (Friday, June 20), "Martha Speaks" sends its talking-dog
heroine into language-based adventures involving Shakespearean English and
world languages (Polish, anyone?). On
website, games and digital
books aim to help children reinforce and build their vocabulary, word by word.
Silverman says one
way parents can help kids enhance their language skills over the summer is
simply by keeping one ear tuned to the programs their kids are watching. Later,
"you can ask follow-up questions" about wording as well as plot, she says. "Ask them, 'What did you see today? What were
the words that were interesting to you?'"
Of course, kids are
only too happy to have screen time. Reading is another matter. Some children
will pick up books of their own volition. Others — those known in educational
parlance as "reluctant readers" — take a bit more prodding. Silverman advises
connecting reading material to subjects the kids are interested in, or what
they are experiencing or going to be experiencing. So if your son is heading
off to science camp, a book on electricity might be interesting. If the family
is making a visit to Washington, D.C., bring home a picture book about the U.S. presidents, a pictorial on the city itself or, for an older child, a guidebook
to the nation's capital.
Silverman also recommends finding books about projects
kids can do over the summer. For instance, she says, she got her own son a book
on things he could do with recycled materials, and now he can make some of the
projects by reading and following the directions. Cookbooks with
child-accessible recipes can accomplish the same ends.
Read Aloud, Then Talk About It
Children will also
benefit from listening to books read aloud. Download an audio book from the
library and while you're at it, check out the paper version as well, then have
your child follow along. If that's not his bailiwick, fine, just have him
listen while he doodles or organizes his baseball cards. Many digital picture
books also feature text-to-speech technology, allowing new readers to hear the
words on the page spoken as they follow along.
Silverman says children of most ages can benefit from listening to their
parents read a book aloud to them. A parent reading aloud can introduce a
child to stories that may be a little too complex for the kid on her own, says
Silverman, whose own grandmother used to read her the school's summer reading
books, all the way through high school. "The power of discussion is really
important," she says. "And besides, then the parents and kids have that shared
Keep a Journal or Start a Blog
Writing skills can
also lag in the summer, but here too, there are simple remedies. Silverman
recommends creating a project involving writing — say, keeping a journal of the
camping trip, or writing a blog about summer camp or the museums you're
visiting. "In the summer when they just want to have fun," she says, "try to
connect it to the fun things they are doing."
Work Math into Everyday Outings
Similarly, with math,
try to incorporate the skill into your everyday experiences. Can your child add
up the cost of the shopping items as you drop them into the cart? Ask questions
like, if we have four people sitting at the table and one pizza, how can we cut
it up so everyone gets three slices? And check out this
great site, where your kids can download baseball score cards for keeping tallies during games and get a statistics lesson in the process.
Whatever the subject,
pinpoint opportunities — whenever they arise, amid whatever else is going on
that day — to incorporate learning. "Help kids keep that curiosity alive,"
Silverman says, "to use and develop their skills over the summer."