Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

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June 1, 2009
Summer doesn't have to dry up fountain of knowledge for youth

School may be out for summer, but that doesn't mean knowledge gained during the year need be lost forever.

Summer brain drain is a real phenomenon and a lurking threat for school age children, experts say.

According to the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University's School of Education, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months.

Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than the same tests taken at the beginning of the summer months, the center's Web site states.

But parents can help prevent their kids from losing lessons learned by making a few simple changes to their summer activities, said Susan Canizares, publisher for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's K-12 division.

It's important not to change the summer months into a school environment either, she said.

Rather, one of the best practices is to take activities the family is doing anyway and find lessons within them.

"We all play, we all shop, we all eat," she said during a phone interview from her Austin office. "It's about how you can take some of those activities and get some educational value out of them."

Canizares, who has a doctorate in language and literacy development from Fordham University, provided the following ideas for parents:

• Follow a favorite sports team - Help children track scores and favorite player statistics. Keep a chart with each family member's prediction on scores and game outcomes and at the end of the season, analyze to show who had the highest percentage of winning predictions.

• Plant a garden - Children can research what grows best in the neighborhood, chart growth and experiment with different watering cycles.

• Go shopping - Challenge kids to buy food to feed the whole family lunch or dinner for $12 and have them try to decorate the table for under $2.

• Get cooking - Have children find recipes in cookbooks or online and have them plan a family dinner where they'd have to double or triple the recipe.

• Read aloud - It's a myth that some children are too old to be read to, Canizares said. Even children in middle school like hearing a story from a parent. "To listen to someone read to you is a relaxing, enjoyable experience," she said. Hit the library for new-to-you children's books.

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