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Ask an Expert: Reading and creativity over the summer

Q. My child is signed up for various day camps this summer, but I’m already worried about possible learning loss. What other tips or programs are you aware of to keep his love of learning going?

Don’t forget the library

Studies repeatedly show that children who do not read during the summer demonstrate a significant loss in reading skills, while students who read just five to six books throughout these months perform better during the following school year.

Denver Public Library’s (DPL) Summer of Reading Program is a fun way to incorporate reading and related activities into summer family time to help avoid “summer learning loss,” a problem that affects kids of all ages and income levels.

Denver Public Library has offered summer reading programs for local residents over 80 years. Summer of Reading is one of the Denver Public Library’s most important programs for children and teens and is offered from May through August annually at the Denver Central Library, the library’s 23 branch locations and through two bookmobiles. In 2011, DPL had a record 39,000-plus registrants.

The Summer of Reading Program provides hundreds of free summer activities, suggestions for summer reading, and cool incentives for all ages. It is divided up into three age-appropriate themes:

  • Birth – Preschool: Read with Me Encourages parents to read to their very young children, provides helpful information about the pre-literacy skills that children need to learn before entering school and demonstrates interactive techniques to help caregivers prepare their children for a lifetime of learning. As parents/caregivers complete a variety of early literacy activities together they earn prizes. At the end of the program, all Read with Me completers will be entered to win a pair of tickets to the Children’s Museum of Denver (one winner per Branch).
  • Kids (K – 5th grade) The program offers rewards for reading independently or with an adult. Exciting prizes are given to each participant at designated reading milestones, including a ticket to Elitch Gardens.
  • Teens (6th – 12th grade) Teens are given a cool journal, and are rewarded with prizes at designated reading milestones.

For more information, visit Or check out programs at your local library.— Denver Public LibraryGet messy, too

Summer is a wonderful time to do those messy experiments with pond water, cooking creations and art projects that take longer to clean up than they take to make.

Depending on the age and stage of your kiddos here are some ideas:

  • Menu planning and purchasing I did menu planning with my picky eaters. We read the supermarket ads (good math review). We figure out what we needed for the meals they wanted to make (good for organizing and strategizing). Then they helped make the purchases. A variation on this activity was talking about using foods that were in season, or trying ethic dishes and learning about other places in the world (reading and research).
  • Creating collections My girls love to collect “stuff” from outside and see if they could make perfume somehow it always smelled like coffee. I’m thinking that had something to do with the coffee cans they used to mix their creations. They also picked flowers and sold nosegays to a local artist for her work. They painted rocks, they made terrariums, and they collected and identified bugs. There is no wrong way to collect—just start and see what’s available.

Now go to your web browser. Here are a few of my favorite places for ideas:

Follow the many links on any of these sites and you’ll have more summer resources than you can use.
Remember to give yourself a few days of grace. Your household is use to one schedule, you have to move into another and it takes a bit of an adjustment.

Don’t forget to do what we tell our little ones “use your words.” Sometimes our kids are confused by these adjustment times and we forget to help them with words and with the time it takes us all.

Suzanne Lustie, former high school English teacher and hands-on grandmaAbout our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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