Avoiding the Summer Slowdown

June 1, 2017

It’s easy to do — slow down, that is, —during the summer when vacations are on and school is out. But this summer, don’t let your children put their brains on pause. Teachers will tell you that many children take more than a minute to fall back into school form once summer is over leading to valuable time wasted.
The brain is just like a muscle in our body. If we don’t use it, we lose it, and children who don’t read over the summer or have enriching experiences fall prey to brain atrophy.

What can parents do so their children don’t fall victim to the summer slowdown? If your child doesn’t have a schedule of learning over the summer it’s up to you to make one for him or her. It might be as simple as a summer reading list. The Association for Library Service for Children puts out an annual reading list and it can be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/publications-resources/book-lists/2017-summer-reading-list.  And by the way, the reading list starts at preschool and goes through 8th grade.

While the ALSC has a list that goes through 8th grade, what about high school? Check out eSchool News at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/05/04/10-books-for-high-school-summer-reading/, 10 books just for high schoolers to keep their minds sharp over the summer.

Why reading? Let me tell you a little secret. When it comes to getting into your top colleges, every student who applies is going to have a high grade point average. Their SAT scores are going to be fantastic. What will separate those who get in and those who don’t will be the essays. Here’s the key to the secret. The more you read, the better you write. It’s magic. Reading builds vocabulary. Reading teaches a student — we’ll anybody — how to tell a story. The essays will tell the student’s story.

Many families can’t afford to send their children to college prep private schools, but that doesn’t mean your children can’t read what the children that do go to those schools read over the summer. Check out the summer reading lists from some of the nation’s top private schools courtesy of Business Insid-er at http://www.businessinsider.com/summer-reading-lists-at-prestigious-private-schools-2015-7/#the-hotchkiss-school–lakeville-connecticut-1

But it’s not just reading. It’s seeing and touching, and a child’s ability to say, “I’ve been there.” That is the invisible hand of education when you take your children on road trips, to family reunions, to places where you grew up. The stories you tell along the way will stick with them. Sure, they will act like they are bored to tears and ask dozens of times, “When will we get there?” But you’re creating memories that will last a lifetime.

A few suggestions: Take a day trip to Atlanta and go to the King Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site Visitor Center. It’s free, and you’ll get a chance to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Come alive for your children.
A more adventuresome trip, better suited for a weekend, cou-pled with an overnight stay is tracing the Selma to Montgom-ery 1965 March, backward starting in Montgomery, Alabama. Your family could visit the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. King’s first church and stand in the pulpit where he preached. That church is just down the street from the Alabama State Capitol where Gov. George Wallace, stood on its steps in 1963 and declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” It is also the church where Vernon Johns, a civil rights pioneer, mostly forgotten now, stood steadfast against segregation.

While in Montgomery, visit the Civil Rights Memorial. Then trace the Selma to Montgomery March in reverse along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail where there are two National Park Service interpretive centers: The Lowndes Interpretive Center in White Hall, Alabama and the Selma Interpretive Center in Selma.

But there is another site your children should see and experience. The Viola Liuzzo Memorial. She was the Michigan mother of five who gave her life for the civil rights struggle. She was driving marchers home when she was shot and killed by KKK members. Her car crashed at the site of the present marker. The Viola Liuzzo Memorial is along U.S. Highway 80 (mile marker 111).

Once in Selma, there are two must-sees. The Edmund Pettus Bridge (there is a park underneath the bridge, but don’t expect a paradise, it isn’t) and Brown Chapel AME, the church where marchers started the March 7 demonstration that led to “Bloody Sunday.” Walk where John Lewis and 600 others were beaten and gassed.

These are just a few ideas to help your children understand the shoulders they stand on and the struggle that people who look like them made so they can live free. It should also in-spire them to do their very best with the opportunities set before them.

Written by Charles E. Richardson