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Help Your School-Age Kids Beat "The Summer Slide"

Reading is one way to help your child stay ready for learning during summer vacation. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Reading is one way to help your child stay ready for learning during summer vacation. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
July 5, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Ask any teacher what the "summer slide" is, and they'll explain it's the three months when school is out, a time during which children forget some of what they've learned in school the prior year; when their minds seem to slip out of learning mode.

According to Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a University of Wisconsin Health pediatric physician, kids and teachers both deserve a break during the summer months. But he advocates keeping young minds in learning mode, and suggests a number of ways parents can help make that happen.

"Focusing on activities that the child can choose that are beneficial to them, such as reading, such as creative projects," Navsaria said. "Maybe being involved in some service work that involves thinking and planning, and organizing, depending on what their interests are."

Navsaria, who also directs the Reach Out And Read program at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, said one key to helping a child want to read over the summer months is to allow them to select books on topics they're interested in.

Too much screen time is always a concern of parents and pediatricians, and Navsaria pointed out that not all screen time is bad. However, he said, it's important to have a plan and set guidelines for how much screen time your child gets, and the kinds of content they're seeing on their device.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics has some excellent guidelines that families can pick and choose from," he said.

On the website, there are guidelines for creating a Family Media-Use Plan.

"It gives you some suggestions, and you choose what's right for you and your family," he explained, "and it's divided up by different age categories."

Navsaria also suggested taking your child to the library and letting them browse, allowing them to make selections, not forcing topics onto them.

"I'll also add that audio books are fine. There's nothing wrong with that, and it helps kids who might struggle with the text processing part - decoding what it says on a page," he noted. "Audio books allow them a way to enjoy the story and the narrative and vocabulary and all that, without having to do that."

Other ideas include trips to museums and screen-free summer camps.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI