Avoid ‘summer slide’ by keeping young minds engaged - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Avoid ‘summer slide’ by keeping young minds engaged

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms. Contact her at mreese@evtrib.com

Michelle Reese covered education for the Tribune, also blogging about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012 6:30 am | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

A summer routine has fallen into place in the Reese home. It wasn’t really planned, but so far, it’s working.

Each weekday after swim and dive team practices, the kids come home and read or do what we’ve come to call “academics.”

And no, so far, my kids don’t hate me for it.

With nearly 11 weeks of summer break, I am hoping to avoid the “summer slide.”

Children who aren’t “constructively engaged” can lose up to two months of learning during the summer, said Janet Garcia, vice president of community impact at the Valley of the Sun United Way.

The agency put together a list of “10 expert tips” for early childhood success that includes things parents and caregivers can do with their children to prepare them for school.

And we’re not talking rocket science camp here, but if that’s your thing, Garcia said, go for it.

Garcia has been working with children and youth for 30 years. For the past three, she’s focused on education and early childhood learning with the Valley of the Sun United Way.

“The goal is from cradle to grave that children learn to be constant learners,” she told me in a recent interview. “You can make everyday things part of learning.”

One of the easiest, but most impactful activity, she said, is to engage in conversation: Talk about the books you’re reading, the bus driving down the street, the animals at the zoo or the colors of the items at the grocery store.

Just talk.

Even with babies, Garcia said, it’s important to keep that “conversation” going. And though your teenager may not seem interested — or engaged — keep trying.

During the summer, Garcia also encourages parents to make the library a “home away from home.”

“If you go to the zoo and your child shows an interest in a particular animal, go to the library and check out a book about it.”

It doesn’t have to be much for a young child — 10 to 15 minutes of reading a day. Older children may read 30 minutes a day or more.

Garcia said the learning doesn’t need to come from a workbook (that’s what we’re using for “academics”), but can be found all over.

“Do children need a break? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all,” she said about summer. “Make it more about experiences and less about drilling math facts, but do keep some schedule.”

That routine will help everyone and should include creative time and physical activity.

“There are some studies that show children who are more physically active do better in school. They are more healthy and feel better about themselves,” Garcia said.

Rather than giving children a coloring book, Garcia suggests giving them a blank piece of paper and some Crayons.

“It’s the difference of not having something constructive to do and having your brain on idle,” she said. “It’s like your body … If you’re actually engaged, your mind will be fit and ready for school.”

As far as that workbook we are using?

“Giving them something to concentrate on for a while is a good thing as well,” Garcia said.

I hope we’re on the right track.

For more tips from the Valley of the Sun United Way, see vsuw.org/helpkids.

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