Michell Hilburn: Summer fun with a side of learning

Summer is underway in the Hilburn household.

This season comes with a whirlwind of activities for our family. It’s often difficult to fit anything else into our busy schedule but we try as often as possible to squeeze in family time and fun activities. After all, summer is about having fun and we work hard all year to earn this reward.

As important as these activities are to our family, as an educator, another important part of summer is continuing to learn. Whether it’s in the classroom, at home, or outside in nature, I want my children to continue to meet their educational goals so I encourage summer learning in a multitude of ways.

Continuing learning activities throughout the summer helps to beat the summer slide. The summer slide is a term used to describe the tendency for students to regress in their mastery of skills learned the previous year. This regression of skills is common and expected by educators. However, many activities can help combat this dreaded result of summer break.

Establishing time for students to read during the summer is crucial to maintain reading progress and promote growth during the break. Having access to books through a personal library, a school library, or the public library will provide students with reading materials that will keep them engaged throughout the summer.

The public library offers more to students and families than book checkouts. Children can attend summer activities at our public library. Activities for children range in age from the littlest readers just beginning to develop a love for books to young teenagers seeking books that best match their interests.

The summer reading program is also a fun way to motivate children to read. Readers track their progress on a phone app and then earn prizes as they reach specific goals. The extrinsic motivation this offers encourages students to continue to read in order to reach higher goals.

The library even has a variety of summer activities for adults as well. Learning and reading right beside our children models good behaviors and attitudes towards summer learning activities. Becoming involved in activities and programs through the public library helps to keep students interested in learning and reading throughout the summer.

Our local schools plan engaging summer school programs each year. Students that attend summer school can continue working towards meeting their educational goals. It can serve as an intervention for struggling students or enrichment for students. Enrolling children in summer school helps ensure academic success and gives children new opportunities to learn throughout the summer.

At Purdy, students receive free breakfast and lunch at summer school. Students who are eligible for special services such as speech or occupational therapy can often continue working towards their goals with their therapists during summer school. Students have access to the school library and have daily library class so they can check out reading materials and participate in fun activities. Each Thursday students attend field trips that promote fun learning opportunities.

Students can engage in learning activities within their own home during the summer. Hands-on activities such as helping cook a meal or treat based on a recipe, helping plan meals around a specific budget then helping to shop for the items needed, growing and maintaining a garden, performing yard work, washing and folding laundry, and many other household activities teach students responsibility while integrating math, science, and reading. Educational opportunities are endless in the home so it’s important to be creative and involve kids in multiple aspects of the household.

While beating the summer slide is important, it’s important to not forget the importance of keeping a healthy balance of learning activities and rest. School and all of the activities that it involves can be exhausting at times but summer break allows our students to rest, rejuvenate, and come back to school in August.

Summer memories are ones that children and adults hold close to their hearts. Incorporating engaging learning activities into summer break can not only provide the knowledge necessary to beat the summer slide but it also gives children the opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Michelle Hilburn is the president of the Cassville Area Friends of the Library and a librarian at Purdy schools. She may be reached at mhilburn@purdyk12. com.

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