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Thu, Dec. 05

‘Talk, talk, talk’ is key to avoiding summer ‘brain drain’

Prescott Public Library summer ‘Build a Better World’ reading series:

Weekly Lego building time and raffles as reading incentives; art Mondays, Tuesday crafts, and Thursday entertainment to include musical performances, jugglers, magicians, and trout fishing. A finale party is scheduled for July 29. The library also offers a summer reading program for teens and adults. For more information on the programs or to register, call 928-777-1500.

Educator tips for preventing Brain Drain

1 – Get some culture – Visit a museum, attend a lecture, go to a concert or play.

2 – Read daily – create a character collage or make a dish from a story recipe

3 – Build a robot from recyclables

4 – Take a hike, star gaze, learn to kayak

5 – Visit a dinosaur park

6 – Track the family’s food expenses

7 – Plan a scavenger hunt

Summertime is synonymous with fun — no homework, no tests, no essays and no math formulas.

Such fun, though, can prompt what some educational professionals refer to as the “summer brain drain,” a true phenomenon statistics suggest can lead students to forget as much as 20 percent of what they learned during the prior school year.

“People don’t realize how important the summer months are,” said Denise Murphy, the early literacy coordinator for Arizona Reads Now, a program of the Yavapai County Educational Service Agency.

So how do families combat this syndrome?

With the same fun that children crave on their summer vacations, Murphy sand fellow educators said.

S’mores around a campfire, swimming at a local pool, soccer in the backyard, or trips to the library where reading and other unplugged fun are proven antidotes to “brain drain,” they advise.

Murphy, a former Taylor Hicks second-grade teacher, said it’s all about talk, particularly parents talking to their children regardless their age as part of summer play, be it at home or on vacation.

“Everywhere you go, talk, talk, talk,” said Murphy, a former Taylor Hicks second-grade teacher who now heads up a countywide literacy program through the Yavapai County Educational Service Agency. “Talk with your children. Talking builds the reading brain.”

In the summer is the perfect time for children and their families to get outside and play, connecting with each other as they laugh, compete and enjoy each other’s company, Murphy said. Conversations during a summer backyard barbecue, or while grocery shopping, can reinforce what students gleaned from their classrooms, she said. Daily chats between parents and children build vocabulary and inspire problem-solving and critical thinking skills that are the backbone of a child’s formal academic studies, she said.

Just asking a child, “Why?” is a mind stretcher as “talking about thinking to process information makes it all concrete,” Murphy said.

“In short, I feel with technology and busy families, we’ve forgotten the power of words, and how important talking and conversing with children is,” Murphy said. “With young children this is the way they learn the foundational skills of reading, building vocabulary and the background knowledge that are key components of reading comprehension.”

Summer is also a perfect time for families to make regular trips to the local libraries, and Murphy encourages parents to make regular time to read aloud to their children, regardless of age.

“Reading out loud is so incredibly important for building vocabulary,” Murphy said. “And it’s just exciting to hear a story.”

Summertime travels are also the perfect chance for parents to encourage children to do some writing that is fun rather than onerous, Murphy said. Think a travel journal, she said.

Expect More Arizona, a statewide educational advocacy organization, concurs that parents and caregivers can do a lot to combat the summer “brain drain” by looking at learning in a holistic fashion.

Math aptitude can be promoted by encouraging children to read grocery product labels, calculating allowances, or doing puzzles, organization leaders said.

Though some education leaders prefer to limit technology in the summer months, parents and caregivers can select educational videos and computer apps that will not only entertain children but stimulate their young brains.

Prescott’s Abia Judd Elementary School Principal Clark Tenney said his staff send home summer activity packets that include student activities as well as resources for parents. He said the school also does a lot to promote the Prescott Library’s summer reading program ¬– during the year students are encouraged to get their own library cards ¬– that offers a full, enriching schedule of literacy-based activities that children will want, rather than be required, to attend. The district also offers summer school enrichment and remediation during the month of June.

Summer break should be a time of rejuvenation, but that should incorporate creative exploration and new experiences that assure children’s brains are engaged so they are prepared for their next grade, educators said.

“My recommendations are pretty simple: talk to kids, get outside, have them write, draw pictures, be creative and make stories to build imagination as it all leads to reading success,” Murphy concluded.

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