It seems hard to believe that the 2011-2012 school year is already coming to an end, and with a lack of winter precipitation, the summer is actually 10 entire weeks this year! As an educator, I am thrilled at the idea of lazy days by the pool and unscheduled fun with my own children, but I also know that within a week to 10 days, my ever curious son will be driving me crazy with a million questions.
What's a parent to do? The first thing that I try to do is always ask him a million questions at the end of the school year about things that he learned. That way, over the summer I can try to re-visit those topics to keep his brain engaged. For example, he learned last year about the body and invariably, as he got out of the pool last summer he noticed his wrinkly skin. That led to a discussion of skin, suncare for the skin, water amounts in our bodies, and online "research" by me in order to answer his follow-up questions. A great way for kids to keep learning is to listen to their questions and ask your own follow-up questions. That can lead to some pretty interesting discussions.
Summer reading is another great way to keep kids' minds active. It can be anything from a graphic novel to fiction to books about their favorite subjects. The public library is a great place to start. There are also countless lists available online of appropriate books for all grade levels. If a parent can, read the book with the child or ahead of the child in order to discuss them. If not, ask them simple questions that will stimulate discussion and ingrain life-long reading habits, including:
- Who are the main characters?
- What is happening in the book?
- What is your favorite part? Why?
- What part do you not like? Why?
- Can you read me a page?
- Would you change anything about the book?
- Can you draw a scene from the book?
- Have you learned anything? If so, what? If not, why not?
Finally, even watching TV and discussing it can help children maintain a certain school readiness. Watch a cartoon with them and ask similar questions to the list above. If kids can link what they just watched to an earlier/later episode, they are learning about sequencing, plot, character development, and even theme. These are all important skills for reading and will help them when August invariably rolls around again.