Helping kids avoid the summer 'brain drain' before they head back to school

Teachers offer tips to jump start learning

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Thousands of San Diego students will head back to school over the next month, but teachers have some ways to help your child make sure they remember what they learned last year.

"Typically, kids lose 2 to 3 reading levels over the summer," said San Diego Unified School District Director of Family Engagement Stanley Anjan.

To fight that "brain drain," Anjen said the easiest thing to do is to have kids read.

"It doesn't have to be a book. Any text, even Facebook, can be used as a learning device," he said.

While reading, educators say you should ask your kids questions about the book but try to make them open-ended or something that can't be answered with a yes or no. They can also act out scenes, draw pictures, play hangman with words from the book or explain the plot to parents or siblings.

"That shows a deeper level of comprehension," said Shaina Gross from the United Way.

The United Way runs a summer reading program called "Reading in the Heights." It keeps 400 kids from San Diego engaged in learning during late July and early August.

"The brain is just like a new muscle; it needs to be exercised," Gross added.

She said any activity could be turned into a learning activity.

"For example, if you're on a walk, ask them how many things are green. Or if you're at the grocery store, ask if they can find the letter S or the letter B," said Gross.

Trips to the library can be good for any young learner. Even narrating your daily activities can be beneficial as it lets kids practice language.

For older kids, like teenagers, reading is just as important. But beyond that, it helps to pull out old lesson plans or homework from last year and have them do it again. Or they can look back over old science or math projects. It also helps to ask them to teach someone else something they learned because teaching requires a deeper understanding of the material.

"We push and engage and hope that our families are building a love of learning in their home," said Anjan.

The United Way says their program has shown these ideas work.

"All the kids in the program either maintained or improved their reading scores over the summer," said Gross.

To help the kids continue to read, the Reading in the Heights program wants to give each of their 400 participants a new book at the end of the summer. For that, they need the community's help.

"We're hoping people will donate new books," said Gross. "They can drop them off at our location."

The address, and more info about the "Reading in the Heights" program is on this website.

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