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The Allen County Public Library offers a summer reading program that includes a variety of projects such as making a pirate hat and sword.
Fighting summer brain drain

Keep young minds active

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Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory offers its City Safari camp starting in June.
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Science Central has day- and week-long camps on a wide range of topics.

It’s called the summer slide, and no, it’s not one of those big plastic things kids play on at the park.

The summer slide is what educators say happens to students’ academic proficiency after school lets out.

Teachers spend two or three weeks in the fall just helping students catch up, says Pamela Musick, area administrator for elementary education for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

“All children are prone to have it because they have that interruption in instruction,” she says. “If parents can attend to opportunities to continue learning in the summer, we can use more weeks in the fall for new instruction.”

A child’s teachers will gladly point out where he or she might benefit from summer enrichment and can often suggest specific activities, she says. At least, parents should aim for having kids read 20 to 30 minutes a day.

Other suggestions:

Check out the library. Area public libraries have activities for kids throughout the summer, says Kris Lill, children’s librarian at the Allen County Public Library. The free summer reading program, from June 3 to July 26, offers prizes when students track their daily time reading or doing other literacy activities. And look for special events, such as a visit by a magician, at www.acpl.lib.in.us.

Discover summer camps. Franke Park day camps (www.fortwayneparks.org) provide kids from 4 to 18 with nature experiences and arts and crafts. The Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory (www.botanicalconservatory.org) has a field-trip rich City Safari camp June 17 to Aug. 2. Science Central has day- and week-long camps on topics from Lego robotics to the science behind cooking (www.sciencecentral.org/summercamp). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Focus outings. Going to the grocery store? Beforehand, have young ones make the list or know they need to calculate totals. Going to the zoo? Stay with one habitat and write down questions or observations about the animals to research. A ball game? Keep stats. “It doesn’t need to be something you pay admission for. Just walk and look for geometric shapes,” Musick says.

Don’t discourage games. Judicious use of games can build reading, problem-solving, math and social skills. Just encourage kids to switch ’em up, says Aaron Brosman, manager of Top Shelf Games in Fort Wayne. “A friend of mine says, ‘The brain is like a muscle. It needs exercise,’ ” he says. “You want to vary your games.”

Profit from vacation days. Kids can help plan trips using maps skills and calculation skills for estimated mileage, Musick says. They can exercise writing skills by emailing home about what they did or “reviewing” restaurants. And don’t underestimate the time-honored tasks of tallying different states’ license plates, makes of trucks or cows and horses.

Use your words. Every day, Musick says, you can pick a fancy word and challenge a child to use it in conversation as often as possible. You can build a “family” of rhyming words or words that mean the same thing or start or end with the same letter. “Talk all the time with kids,” she says. “They learn so much just from conversation with an adult.”

rsalter@jg.net

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