Emily Hayden

Some kids strive to completely avoid anything that resembles school work during the summer months, but one expert says it means they’ll likely need weeks to get back into the swing next fall.

Emily Hayden, a professor of literacy education at Iowa State University, suggests parents help their children to avoid the “summer slide” by incorporating learning into summertime activities.

“Explore some topics that your child loves and see if you can build some reading and writing in around those so it doesn’t feel like school and you’re not setting really rigid timelines every day during the summer for doing reading, writing and school-type things,” Hayden says, laughing. “That’s probably the quickest way to kill off a love of reading and writing.”

Whatever interests your kid, there’s probably a book about it — from bugs to cars and from bikes to cooking. When her daughter was younger, Hayden says they’d venture to the library or the bookstore to “test drive” some topics during the summer.

“We’d go to the bookstore and I’d get her a soda or a coffee drink or whatever she wanted and tell her to pick out three or four books, sit down with your drink and start reading,” Hayden says. “If you get through the first chapter or the first section of the book and you’re still really interested in that, then, that’s the book we’re going to take home.”

Hayden is a former elementary school teacher and says today’s grade school teachers do still offer their students summer reading lists. “There are great resources that teachers are using and that parents can use online, too,” Hayden says. “Scholastic.com is one I really like. Library associations have terrific book lists.” It’s okay to choose summer selections with lots of pictures and less text, she says, if it can nudge the child into pleasure reading.

Hayden also suggests packing a journal during summer vacation so kids can write about their experiences and include photos.

Photo courtesy of ISU.