Avoid summer ‘brain drain’

Next week is August and after that … it’s back to school. Family Features offered tips to get your kids reading, and enjoying it. Even if they haven’t been hitting the books this summer, now is a good time to start getting them in gear for the school year. Besides, isn’t it better to raise them as lifetime readers, not folks who only read when they have to.
Read on to find out more:

(Family Features) ‘‘No more teachers, no more books …” Kids may heave a sigh of relief when school is out for the summer, but parents and caregivers need to make sure that kids don’t fall victim to summer brain drain.
According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), all kids experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer. Research over the last 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
“Like any other important skill, learning must be practiced or it can easily be lost,” said Matthew Boulay, NSLA’s interim CEO. “The research shows that lower-income children with less access to summer learning programs and to books are even more likely to fall behind in reading over the summer — and that contributes a great deal to the achievement gap over time.”
What you can do for your kids
Reading is a crucial learning skill that has impact into adult life. Here are some fun ways to help get — and keep — your kids’ noses in books this summer:
— Make time every day for reading. Reading to children and modeling good reading habits communicates that reading is important — and fun.
— Help kids choose books at an appropriate reading level. Nothing is more discouraging than having to struggle with a book that’s too challenging. Listen to your child read. A good rule of thumb is that if he or she makes five or more errors in reading a page of about 50 words, the book is too challenging. (See sidebar story for age-appropriate reading lists.)
— Discuss new words, especially with younger readers. Asking them who might live in a palace or what they might do with a vacuum helps put the new word into a context they can understand.
— When reading picture books, ask your child about what is happening in the illustration. Let them interpret the drawings in their own, unique way.
— Let them read from a wide variety of materials. Fairy tales, information books, poems, children’s magazines, the newspaper’s sports page, e-books and graphic novels are all good options for finding interesting reading material.
— Don’t drill your child on letters, words, numbers, colors, etc. Turn it into a game to help encourage their curiosity and continued interest.
— Make sure reading material is easily accessible. Leave books and magazines in their room; have reading material in other rooms of the house, and even the car.
What you can do for others
It’s important for every child to keep reading and learning during the summer, but for some kids, it’s even more critical. The NSLA says that lower-income students are particularly at risk:
— Low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement over the summer months.
— More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.
To help close this gap, The UPS Store network supports the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, a year-round initiative that encourages monetary donations and provides books to less-fortunate children. The program gives these children the ability to compete academically and succeed in life by enhancing their ability to read and communicate effectively.
Every donation helps purchase books for local children in need or places books in libraries, schools, and existing programs that serve economically disadvantaged children. One hundred percent of donations benefit children in the community in which the donations were received.
Since its beginning in 2008, the Toys for Tots Literacy Program has raised nearly $1.6 million to buy books for less-fortunate children in communities across the U.S. Find out more at www.toysfortots.org/literacy.
Fun Booktivity Ideas
Writing and illustrating are two more fun ways to engage kids with books. Using a Web browser, you can submit electronic files to a participating The UPS Store location for digital print production, then customize your documents and pay for them online.
Here are some fun “booktivity” ideas that keep kids engaged with reading skills while helping others:
— Have your child create their own illustrations for their favorite book. Then, print them up for display.
— Older kids can make their own comic books. Then, have them printed and bound.
— During a family trip, let the kids write and illustrate their adventures using your laptop’s drawing software. Then, upload the files and have them printed and waiting for you as soon as the trip is done.
Learn more about online printing at www.theupsstore.com/print.
Ready, Set, Read!
Here are a few books to get the summer fun started:
Age 3 to 6
— “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff
— “Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding at the Zoo” by Kevin Waldron
— “Baloney (Henry P.)” by Jon Scieszka
— “Kitten’s First Full Moon” by Kevin Henkes
Ages 6 to 9
— “A Picture Book of Jesse Owens” by David Adler
— “Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker
— “What Really Happened in Roswell? Just the Facts (Plus the Rumors) About UFOs and Aliens” by Kathleen Krull
— “From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems” by Francisco X. Alarcón
Ages 9 to 12
— “The Batboy” by Mike Lupica
— “Summer Reading Is Killing Me” by Jon Scieszka
— “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo
— “A Long Way from Chicago” by Richard Peck
Ages 13+
— “Summerland” by Michael Chabon
— “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan
— “Holes” by Louis Sachar
— “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
To get more book recommendations, visit your local library or bookstore, as well as some of these sites:
— American Library Association — www.ala.org — for a list of award-winning children’s books.
— Reading Rockets — www.ReadingRockets.org — for themed lists of kids’ favorites.
— Education World — www.education-world.com — for recommended reading and fun activities to go along with the books.
— KidsReads — www.kidsreads.com — for an annotated list of age-appropriate books.
— International Reading Association — www.reading.org — for a list of books arranged by reading level.

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