With all the activities of summer -- the pool, the beach, summer camps and just playing with friends -- it can be difficult to get children to sit down and read a book.
But experts say it's important for kids to keep reading over the summer. Their teachers have them read every day during the school year, but that can drastically drop off over the summer. And since they are not doing all the academic activities they do during the school year, it's even more essential that kids read over the summer.
Reading is one way to combat what educators call "summer learning loss."
Carmen Dillard, who was principal of Coosa Elementary School and is transitioning to Beaufort County School District director of elementary academic assistance, said if students do not continue practicing the skills they've learned, they can lose up to two to three months of what they learned during the school year.
Dillard said summer learning loss tends to be more common in lower-income families and for students already struggling with reading.
"It's really important that those students have opportunities to read during the summer," she said. "If they're already behind, that makes that gap even wider."
Dillard suggests children read at least 30 minutes a day over summer vacation.
"The bottom line is that the more you read, the better you become at reading," she said.
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT READING
Dr. Faith Polkey, chief of pediatrics at Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services at Port Royal Medical Center, suggests parents designate a time for reading every day, a time when the TV is off, and there are no other distractions.
She said to come up with a plan and discuss it with your family.
"I know for my own children, I have to really consciously say, 'OK. We need to continue reading,'" Polkey said.
She also suggests signing up kids for a summer reading program through the library.
And if your children aren't sure what books they want to read, take a look at their spring MAP testing results. Dillard said the results should include a Lexile score, which gives parents a range of what their child's reading level is. Parents can go to www.lexile.com, put in their child's interests and their Lexile range, and the site will recommend books.
OTHER WAYS TO COMBAT LEARNING LOSS
Of course, reading isn't the only skill students should practice over summer break. Math is another big one.
Dillard suggests incorporating math into daily activities. Get your child to help you with measurements in a recipe. Quiz him or her on math facts as you drive to the beach. Make a game out of math questions.
The school district encourages parents to sign up their children for online summer school through Compass Learning; however, the registration deadline has passed for this summer's program.
Dillard said the kids who are consistent with Compass Learning throughout the summer tend to do very well when they return to school in the fall.
Beaufort County School District director of educational technology Chrissy Robinson said the school district launched virtual summer school in 2010. Approximately 1,900 students enrolled last year and about 1,200 have registered this year.
Finally, as all parents hear at some point, modeling healthy habits is the best way to get children to form their own.
"As the grown-ups," Dillard said, "if we model the enjoyment of reading ourselves and we spend time with them as they're reading things, or maybe read a book together, I think that is always a good way to start because they see the importance of it."
Follow reporter Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.