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Reading Helps Plug the Summer Brain Drain

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Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 | CWK Producer

“(Most) kids don’t have time for reading. The parents aren’t teaching the importance of it.”

– Jogie, a mother who makes time for her kids to read

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Summer brain drain. It’s what happens during the long, hot summer months when kids who are out of school, forget a lot of what they learned in class.

What’s a parent to do? Experts agree: Reading helps to plug that summer brain drain. And parents – who serve as role models for lots of different behaviors – can help their kids develop a love for reading, as well.

Twins Edward and Thomas are in the third grade, and they love books. “They read at over the fifth-grade level right now,” says their mom Jogie. “And they’ll just pick up and read whatever.”

A history of the Civil War, for instance, which is what 8-year-old Thomas is reading now. “I like to read because after you read a book more than once, it gets more interesting because you understand it a little more.”

How did Thomas and his brother learn to love reading? There are two answers: Mom and Dad. “For me, one of the neat things about reading is the pictures that it puts in your mind and how you can see certain things,” says Jogie.

For 20 minutes every day, all you’ll hear in their home is silence. No television, no video games, no phone, just a book. “Twenty minutes of reading, but I usually do more,” says 8-year-old Edward.

“Seeing adults read (and) having fun, (tells kids) this is something I want to do too,” adds reading specialist Linda Stokes from Sylvan Learning Centers.

Dr. Sherri Lauver, a project director for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, agrees.

“There’s natural messages that we as parents demonstrate to our kids. Whether it’s us taking the time to read a book ourselves or read the newspaper, pay attention to the news, um, sit and read with our child, or just quietly watch them read to us. These are ways that we show our children how important education is,” she explains.

Experts say parents should re-prioritize and put reading near the top of their list. Whether a toddler or a teenager, show your child that reading is important to you.

Linda Stokes, an educational tutor, suggests taking your children to the library, have books available and read aloud and simply discussing books together. “Ask ‘What books have you read? What are you reading in school? What do you have to read? Tell me about it.'”

What We Need To Know

The U.S. Department of Education reports that, on average, children are set back by 25% in reading skills each summer. This phenomenon is so well known that educators even have a special name for it – either “the summer slide” or “summer brain drain.” Teachers often invest the first two months of every school year focusing on lesson plans that help students regain skills they lost over the summer.

Parents can provide high-quality learning opportunities for your children during the summer months that are different from those activities children are exposed to during the school year. Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose, offer these suggestions to encourage reading and plug the Summer Brain Drain:

  • Keep lots of reading material around your home. Read to and with your children. Create a family book club. Pick a book with your child and both read it. Just sit down together at least once a week and discuss the plot development or characters.
  • Model learning. Turn off the TV and computer, put away the video games and put down your cell phone. Let your kids catch you reading this summer.
  • Get help. Every community has learning activities for kids. Libraries have reading programs. Recreation centers and churches have day camps. Schools have inventor’s camps. Art Institutes have drawing, painting, pottery and drama classes for children. Sign your kids up.

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