Steven E. Gomes: Keep learning over summer break

July 5, 2013 

It is the end of another school year, and I would like to congratulate the graduates and all Merced County students on their academic successes. Year after year, our students show with increasing test scores that they are meeting rigorous standards and gaining the skills to compete in an ever-changing job market.

Now that summer is here, I encourage parents to help ensure the academic gains made are not lost to what some educators refer to as "brain drain."

Studies have shown that students can lose months of learning over the summer if not challenged mentally. There are several ways that students can continue to learn during the summer that will not only be for their benefit, but also for teachers in the next school year.

One way to get your child interested in activities is to set agreed-upon goals. Reward them with a trip to the zoo or the movies after they complete a book or several books. Another creative outlet could be to encourage your child to become an author and create his or her own book. For younger students, the book could be a collection of pictures they draw with accompanying text. For older students, challenge them to write set of chapters with more developed characters and a story. Tasks like these encourage creative thinking and promote grammar development.

Another fun way to keep your child engaged during the summer is to learn together as a family. This could be as simple as spending an hour together after dinner studying something your child is interested in, like certain types of animals or a different region of the world. Another family activity could be playing brain-building games. This not only keeps your child in a learning mode, but also creates specific family bonding times. The Merced County Library would gladly help you to find books that would address this need.

If you are planning a vacation this summer, make it an "edu-vacation." California is rich with history and biology. For example, a trip to the Sierra Nevada could include plant and wildlife identification, or a climate lesson on how the temperature changes as you gain altitude. A trip to any major city in California offers a wealth of museums and other cultural experiences. If they are learning to read, ask them to read signs as you pass those signs or how many cars of a particular color went by you as you traveled.

All of these activities will help your child head back to the classroom mentally sharp, while at the same time showing that you value their learning. Have a great summer, and we look forward to the 2013-14 school year.

Gomes is the Merced County superintendent of schools.

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