Summer, with learning

Help children make the most of time off from school

Help children make the most of time off from school

June 24, 2005|By KRISTIN WILSON

When the first day of school rolls around educators know exactly what their students have been up to, says Jill Burkhart, Washington County School District supervisor for reading, social studies and early learning.

"Children who are reading over the summer ? we can tell when they walk through the door," Burkhart says. "You can see their behavior is very different."

At all ages, children who are reading or who are read to by parents, seem to get back into the school groove more easily, she explains. For younger elementary school students, teachers notice how children hold books, turn pages and interact with a story. In the upper grades, how students pronounce words and how quickly they are able to navigate text indicates what they did during the summer.


Of course, a little summer mental stimulation should not cost children the chance to unwind, recharge their batteries and just have fun.

Fortunately, possibilities are boundless for activities ? mental and physical.

Here are some ways families can make the most of the summer months:

What teachers want

"The greatest thing that any parent can do to involve their children over the summer is to make sure that they have access to books, newspapers and magazines and that they read, read, read," says Dr. JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, executive director for elementary education for Washington County Public Schools.

During the summer when most children are not getting the daily instruction typical of the school year, it is especially important to keep kids engaged with books and in learning environments, Burkhart adds.

For the children who haven't been reading, it usually takes them longer to fall back into school-year study habits, Burkhart says.

Ideas to get kids reading include:

  • Obtain a library card just for a child. Giving a child his or her own card can be a way to get them excited about visiting the library and checking out books. Most libraries require that a parent apply for a card before they will issue one to the child.

  • Buy children a book sack so that they can carry books around with them everywhere. Families also can denote an existing book bag or cloth bag as the "reading bag" and fill it with children's books, activity worksheets and crayons.

  • Change the environment to make reading more of an adventure. Instead of making kids sit inside to read, help them create an outdoor tent or fort where they can be protected from the sun.

    Many families already have pop-up, backyard tents that make easy hideaways, but there are other ways to make homemade forts. suggests throwing a tarp over a clothesline and staking the corners into the ground. The ground underneath the tarp can be covered with a blanket, sheet or sleeping bag to make it more comfortable.

  • Mentally stimulating activities don't have to be just about books, remind some local parents. Sarah Thacher, a mother in Downsville, suggests teaching kids a craft like knitting, cross-stitch or painting. Some kids really enjoy word search games or crossword puzzles and can be encouraged to create their own.

  • Spending time outdoors can be a learning opportunity, as well, says Kimberly Hicks, an administrator at the Hagerstown Children's School. Encourage kids to explore outdoors and play with their environment by digging in dirt, climbing and noticing small creatures.

  • If children are not signed up for summer camps or other programs, free or low-cost literacy programs or other activities often pop up throughout the summer months. Check The Herald-Mail's calendar listings Thursdays through Sundays.

Summer independence

Time off from the structure of school days leaves kids with oodles of time in which to play, rest ... and get bored.

Hicks suggests that parents turn the summer into an opportunity to help children gain more independence.

One way to do that is to create a home environment that allows children to "make choices themselves," she says. That means safe food and snacks are accessible to children so that they can prepare some things themselves. Toys and games should be within reach, and children should be encouraged to clean up behind themselves with kid-size mops and brooms.

Children are excellent at creating ? creating stories, games and make-believe. But sometimes they need a little encouragement, suggestion or attention from adults to get their creative juices flowing.

Here are some activities kids can work on themselves, and adults can join in to enjoy the finished product:

  • On a weekend, or after work, take kids to a gardening store. Have them pick out plants, vegetables, flowers or even a tree that they would like to take care of for the summer. Employees at Sunny Meadows Greenhouses on Sharpsburg Pike say for this time of year tomato and pepper plants do well.

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