Marathoners would never dream of taking a two-month break from training right before a race. Nor would musicians before a concert. Yet somehow it seems natural when it comes to children’s learning.

“You don’t take a break for two or three months because then you have a lot of catching up to do. It’s no different for education,” says Emma Cecchin, director of Oxford Learning Center in London, Ontario.

Part of it has to do with the increase in TV and computer time in the summer, but part of it is also that there’s no structure in kids’ lives the encourages them to read or do math during their holidays. And while screen time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can start to take its toll.

“They really don’t have to engage their brain a lot to watch TV shows or movies.”

But Cecchin says what most parents don’t realize is how easy it is to keep their kids brains active over the summer.

“Just two days a week, one hour each day,” she says. “A lot of people think ‘summer school,’ there’s lots of things that people can do from home.”

From talking about day-to-day life, helping to make grocery lists and taking bets on who can come closest to the final bill, to reading together as a family before bed, there are tons of ways to incorporate learning into daily life.

And that kind of home activity could be the key to success later in life, too.

According to a recent study from Statistics Canada, higher literacy rates can lead to a 10% boost in annual income later in life. Being an avid reader also significantly boosts a students’ odds of graduating from high school or pursuing post-secondary studies.

The same is true of math and science. But that’s where a lot of parents run into trouble.

Even if kids are avid readers, Cecchin notes that the summer math slide can be just as damaging to students. And a study commissioned by Oxford Learning found that up to 40% of parents can’t help their kids with high school math problems, simply because their own math skills have grown rusty since they were in high school.

Summer is the perfect opportunity for children to engage in continuous learning, ensuring that learners stay active and maintain momentum,” says Nick Whitehead, president of the company. “Luckily, only a few hours a week can help prevent learning loss.”

Whitehead suggests that when planning a summer trip, the family can workout how much driving is going to be involved and calculate together how much gas will be needed. Or each member of the family can start a hypothetical stock-market account and see who does best playing the numbers over the summer.

Cecchin says those couple of hours per week can really help in the fall when students head back to class. She remembers one grade ten student who did a couple of hours per week last summer.

“She said it was the first year that she didn’t feel behind the first day of school.”

You don’t have to turn off the TV

Most people associate TV and computer as the antithesis of learning. And in most cases, that’s true. But it doesn’t have to be.

“Talk about the movie or show,” advises Emma Cecchin, a center director for Oxford Learning in London, Ontario. “Learning doesn’t have to be all about sitting in a classroom.”

By talking about themes, characters, story construction and ideas in a show, parents can help their kids think critically about the world around them. Even something as simple as talking about their experiences can help stem summer learning loss, she says.

“Even keeping a journal throughout the summer can be a great idea.”

Drop by the public library

Public libraries are almost everywhere across Canada, and their summer programs are a great place for kids to meet new people and explore new ideas. The TD Summer Reading Club launched across Canada 16 years ago to improve literacy and help kids enjoy books over the summer months.

The program now has over 450 participating libraries, and up to half a million people are expected to participate this year.

“Nothing stimulates a child’s imagination like reading,” says Librarian and Archivist of Canada Daniel Caron. “It brings them to a world where magic can happen, the kind of world we once all believed in and a sense of wonder that we yearn for as we get older.”

This year the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is even taking part, so visually impaired readers can join in the fun.

“Reading as little as six books over the summer can really prevent summer learning loss,” said a spokesperson for the program.

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Source: London Free Press –