Summer Reading Tips To Prevent 'Summer Brain Drain'

Summer's here, and even though school is out, experts recommend that even the youngest children should practice their reading every day. According to the National Summer Learning Association, many children lose ground over the summer. The research shows that low-income students are at particular risk. While gaps in student achievement remain relatively constant during the school year between low and middle income students, those gaps widen significantly during the summer. Some children lose two-to-three months in reading.

As moms, educators and the creators of Learn With Homer, the #1 Learn to Read program, we spend our days thinking about how to make literacy learning fun and effective for young children. Here we'd like to offer a few simple tips to keep kids learning even in these lazy days of summer:

Read to your child!: Reading aloud to a child, even after he or she is a fluent reader, is one of the most important things any parent can do to cultivate a love of reading and encourage children to become lifelong readers.

Make a family scrapbook or journal: Take pictures of the whole family. Once or twice a week, get everyone together to write or dictate a caption under favorite photos. Then read through earlier entries. Leave the book out where anyone can browse through it and recall the best parts of the summer.

Dictate Stories: Even very young children can dictate stories to adults. Print out the tales and let your child illustrate them. Nothing is better to read than a book you write yourself!

Play a reading a game a day: Make reading into a game. On Monday you might go on a word search in the supermarket. See who can be the first person to find the world chocolate in five different places. On Tuesday, make a tic tac toe board but put words in the cells. Play as usual but before you place a mark, you must read the word. Wednesday could be playground day where you and your children make signs with the names of the playground equipment and then you have your children match the word to the item at the Playground. The possibilities for reading games are endless! Make some up on your own!

Go to the library - a lot! Search for books. Read some there. Take some home. The Library is a great place for the whole family. If you have little ones ages three to eight, bring along your iPad to practice with Homer, then take books home and read together as a family.

Whether it's parents reading with their children or children reading themselves, research shows that families who immerse themselves in reading reduce the risk of "summer brain drain" and fend off the proverbial "Summer Slide" parents fear so much.

Feeling overwhelmed? Remember, it is equally important to give children time to explore the world independently with no agenda. Plan a campout in the backyard and spend the night stargazing. Who knows? Maybe learning the names of the constellations will spark an interest in the Greek myths, or even space travel."

And what about apps and technology for families short on time to lounge in the hammock reading a favorite book?

Technology and learning go hand-in-hand today. Kids know how to use apps, phones and tablets from a very early age, and the research is finally catching up with the overwhelming market of apps and reading programs.

For parents who are interested in some summer reading of their own, we highly recommend Tap, Click Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens, a new book by Michael Levine, of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshops, and Lisa Guernsey of New America. In addition to mentioning Homer, the Learn-to-Read program we created for young children in 2013, there are dozens of other recommendations and words for the wise.

Here's hoping your summer is filled with an abundance of good books!