Monday, July 2, 2012

How to raise a summer reader

When the lazy days of summer arrive and the schedule is packed with swimming, camp, and family vacations, it can be a challenge to find time for learning.

But kids' reading skills don't have to grow cold once school's out. Here are some ways to make reading a natural part of their summer fun:

Explore your library. Visit your local library to check out books and magazines that your kids haven't seen before. Many libraries have summer reading programs, book clubs, and reading contests for even the youngest borrowers. With a new library card, a child will feel extra grown-up checking out books.

Read on the road. Going on a long car trip? Make sure the back seat is stocked with favorite reads. When you're not at the wheel, read the books aloud. Get some audiobooks (many libraries have large selections) and listen to them together during drive time.

Make your own books. Pick one of your family's favorite parts of summer — whether it's baseball, ice cream, or the pool — and have your child draw pictures of it or cut out pictures from magazines and catalogs. Paste the pictures onto paper to make a booklet and write text for it. When you're done, read the book together. Reread it whenever you need to fend off the cold-weather blahs!

Keep in touch. Kids don't have to go away to write about summer vacation. Even if your family stays home, they can send postcards to tell friends and relatives about their adventures. Ask a relative to be your child's pen pal and encourage them to write each week.

Keep up the reading rituals. Even if everything else changes during the summer, keep up the reading routines around your house. Read with your kids every day — whether it's just before bedtime or under a shady tree on a lazy afternoon. And don't forget to take a book to the beach! Just brush the sand off the pages — it's no sweat!

Reviewed by: Laura L. Bailet, PhD
Date reviewed: February 2010

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tips for Keeping our Kids Learning in the Summer

Summer Learning for Kids
By Wes Fessler

Idle minds forget. Help them remember with a good summer learning activity.

Learning ActivitiesIt’s summertime and the fun has just begun. The kids are out of school and ready for a break. Does this mean they should take a break from studying too?
This is the question parents must face every year. When the regular school schedule comes to a close, it is up to parents to pick up where the teachers left off, or allow the kids to have a break until school starts again.

Idle Minds Forget

The time off between school years gives children time for relaxation and fun, but it also causes a lull in learning that allows them to forget a significant portion of what they have learned. A lack of educational reinforcement during this period makes it necessary to spend time catching up by reviewing previous instruction when school reconvenes. This method of learning is inefficient and deprives children of advantages that would have been available through continuous learning during the summer.

Parents as Teachers

Parents are left the sole responsibility for instructing their children until school begins again. Little direction is given to parents on how or even if they should proceed with instructing their children during the summer. Parents who understand the importance of summer instruction, however, feel responsible for helping their children to retain what they have learned in the previous year.
With the understanding that children need education during the summer, the question becomes one of how to provide the instruction and make it fun. This is their summer after all. It is a time they look forward to as being a break from the schoolwork that has kept them busy in the previous school year.

How Much is Enough?

To help children obtain the intended benefit of summer instruction, it should not be turned into a burdensome task that consumes all of their free time. The goal is to get them to use their knowledge enough to retain it through the summer. This can be accomplished with various schedules and methods. It is up to parents to decide how much learning is enough for their children.
Quality is as important as quantity when it comes to summer learning. Many summer learning activities such as daily workbook pages can be accomplished in an hour or less. The relevancy of the material to a child’s grade level is equally as important as the amount of time a child spends studying.

Subjects to Focus On

Studies have shown that certain academic subjects are easier for children to forget than others. Math skills suffer the worst because the home environment generally does not provide many opportunities to make calculations as in the classroom. An average of over two and a half months worth of math skills are lost over the summer months. A decline in reading skills has also been demonstrated, although the loss is not as severe as in math. These facts indicate that summer studies should place particular emphasis on math and reading in addition to other subjects.

Getting it Done

No summer learning plan is worth anything without supervision. Don’t assume that your children will consider their work to be important unless you do. It is not necessary to stand over your children while they do their work, but you should check periodically to see that they are getting it done. It can also be helpful to correct their work when possible to help them identify mistakes they are making. This helps them to avoid future mistakes and shows that you care about what they are doing.

Fun Summer Learning Ideas and Activities
There are many ideas and activities that can be used to provide summer learning for kids. Providing variety in what children learn can give them additional perspectives and make the experience more fun. Use different educational tools and media to keep learning interesting. Arrange some of your summer activities to include learning opportunities at places of historical and literary value. Use creativity in teaching your children and you may find that education seems less like work and more like fun.
The following are some suggestions for summer learning ideas and activities:
Educational workbooks and work pages
Workbooks are available for children with daily activities that correspond to their grade level. These books can either provide a broad spectrum of academic subjects or specific subjects in which your child may need improvement. Many of these workbooks have daily assignments that can be completed in an hour or less. These books are an excellent starting point for summer learning. They are available at local bookstores or online book dealers. Alternatively you can try our FREE Summer Learning Activities.
Call the school for guidance.
Get a head start by talking to your calling the office at the school or talking to one of the teachers for your child’s next grade. You can get valuable information about the curriculum for the coming year and textbooks that may be used. This information can give you an understanding of what to prepare for and how to tie previous learning into the coming year.
Visit a library
Take several trips to the library during the summer. Any topic that interests your child will help build and maintain reading skills. Encourage your child to read in leisure time. If you are able to find topics that will be studied in the coming year, reading will be even more productive.
Explore Safe Web Sites
There are many good educational web sites on the internet. Help your child to explore safe web sites with good educational content. Many sites have games, stories, and other fun activities that make learning seem like play.
Museums, zoos, and historical sites.
Add an educational twist to summer trips by visiting museums, zoos, and historical sites. This offers kids a chance to learn about history and a little bit about the world they live in.
Play number and word games.
Number and word games can help children to form relationships to reading and math. Younger children can get practice with building words and spelling. When possible, turn off the video games and get the kids to play some of these.
Educational Camps or Tutors
Children who need a little extra help can take advantage of specific academic camps or tutoring. This kind of help provides added attention and helps children to develop in areas where they may be struggling. These resources can also be used when a child has a particular interest and would like to explore specific subjects in greater detail.

Summer time learning is a good idea for any student. It is an opportunity to reinforce recently learned material and to prepare for the school year to come. It is important for parents to recognize the need for learning in the summer and to be involved as much as possible. A summer learning program should consist of a variety of educational and fun activities. With a little creativity, parents can make summer learning as much fun as it is educational.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Working Family Resource Center

Check out the website below for the Working Family Resource Center.  WFRC offers support to families through webinars, podcasts and programs such as Parent to Parent Liva and Mom Enough.  These resources are free and can be viewed live or archived to watch in your convenience.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Backyard Family Vegetable Garden

A Family Vegetable Garden for Every Backyard
Family Garden

"Even in the smallest yards there is room for everyone to garden."
-Wes Fessler

A Family Vegetable Garden for Every Backyard
by Wes Fessler
July 17, 2010
CarrotsWhether in times of economic peril, or in days of unfettered prosperity, a backyard harvest is always more rewarding in savings and satisfaction than pulling vegetables from a shelf at the grocery store.
Backyard gardening is an excellent way to save money, while adding the freshest ingredients to meals for the table. While a small garden will generally provide small savings, the larger a garden becomes, the more significant the savings can be. An important consideration when cost is the main concern, is buying seeds, rather than potted plants from the store. A large garden that is planted from seeds has the greatest potential for savings.
Most backyard gardens arise more out of pleasure, than for savings. There is a feeling of satisfaction to be gained from turning soil, and seeing simple efforts transformed into delicious rewards.
PumpkinsGardening may not be for everyone, but even in the smallest yards there is room for everyone to garden. Whether or not one is willing to carve a large geometric shape out of existing sod, there are always methods to grow vegetables without sacrificing play space. Utilizing existing flower gardens or planters that are within range of existing sprinkler systems can prove to be ideal ways to start vegetable gardens. Large pots placed strategically around the yard can also create extra space for vegetables and fruits.   
There is no need to justify a longing for the freshest vegetables in town, or to count every penny saved by growing them. The true rewards a family will always be able to enjoy from a backyard vegetable garden are the satisfaction of watching with anticipation, and finally reaping the benefits of smiles and satisfied appetites.

Fresh Picks
Fresh picks from the garden!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reading to wiggly Baby

A question-and-answer column with Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson of the University of Minnesota
My pediatrician says I should read books to my eight-month-old baby every day, but I can't seem to get him to hold still and listen. I want him to do well when he gets in school, but this feels like a losing battle. Do you have any suggestions?


Although reading to children has many benefits, forcing the issue will defeat the purpose. It is important in the early years to help children discover the joy of books, and there are many ways to do that without trying to make a lively infant hold still.

Have sturdy, colorful board books around for your baby to handle (and chew!) during floor play. Get down on the floor and follow your baby's lead; if a certain picture catches his attention, point to it and, in an animated voice, tell him about it. For example, say, "That's a big, red ball!" or "Look at the puppy! Puppies go woof-woof."

As he gets older, engage your son in acting out what he sees in his books-roaring like a lion, purring like a kitten, climbing Jack's beanstalk or chugging up the hill like "The Little Engine that Could." Use books as the starting place for him to use his energy and imagination to go beyond what's on the page.

During quiet times when you're nursing or rocking your baby, try reading him a short bedtime story in a soft, soothing voice. This will help him connect reading with those special, comfortable times you are together.

Let your child see you reading for pleasure. Although he's too young now to understand this, over time your example will help him discover the value of reading.

Keep in mind that good reading skills have their roots in early language experience. So talk, talk, talk to your baby. When you're changing his diaper or giving him a bath, smile and look into his eyes and describe what you're doing. Make up silly rhymes, sing songs and tell him stories with his name in them.

When your son begins to talk, elaborate on what he says. For example, if he points to a bird and says, "Birdie!" say, "Yes, that's a bird. Look at the birdie fly away."

As he learns more words, read the first part of a line in a familiar storybook and let him supply the last word. This will be his first taste of "reading" by himself and he'll love it when you cheer his efforts. Move your finger under the sentence as you read and he'll discover the left-to-right, top-to-bottom pattern of our written language.

When your son is old enough to speak in sentences, encourage him to make up a story of his own. Write it down on paper and read it back to him just the way he said it. This provides a lesson in the link between spoken and written language. But, most of all, it lets a child experience the power of creating something that is his own.

Throughout all of these activities, keep things light and fun and responsive to your son's interests. Over time he'll learn that reading is not something he "has to" do, but "gets to" do!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Family Meal Conversation Starters

At your next family meal - try this family conversation starter:

If your family could eat dinner anywhere in the world, where would you choose and what would you eat?

Sponsored by the Suburban Family Collaborative