Our favourite activity at Calgary Reads during the summer is to read outdoors. Between our staff, we like to read in our backyard, in the park, on our deck, on our dock, in the mountains, on the beach, while camping, while hiking, and in new places that we might visit. Part of what makes the summers so special is that we get to do things (like reading while lying in the grass) that we can’t always do throughout the year. Similarly, there’s an opinion among parts of the research community that summer learning shouldn’t resemble learning in school. Like teachers and parents, school-aged children benefit from a break in their routine. Unstructured time and time for play are important for healthy brain development and allowing children to learn about the world around them.
Here are some ways you can incorporate learning into a whole lot of fun this summer.
Make summer reading just about fun: Give your child permission to read whatever and whenever he or she wants to. Even if the reading material may not seem to have any apparent educational value, your child will show improvements in vocabulary, fluency, confidence, and associate reading with joy. Even the pictures in magazines can spark a child’s curiosity or interest or imagination.
Take advantage of summer activities and events: It’s not just Calgary Reads staff and our love of outdoor reading, there are many festivals, farmers markets, concerts, and other special events that occur only in the summer. Many of them, like the Calgary Stampede, provide educational opportunities for children to learn about different things like agriculture, fire safety, or science. There are many more informal learning opportunities; for example, your child can learn about waste, recycling, composting, and landfills (and see lots of big trucks) by going to a community clean-up.
Take advantage of your local library: There are many summer programs taking place at Calgary Public Library branches. While you are there, be sure to encourage your child to pick up as many books, CDs, and DVDs as you can carry home. If your child would like to learn a musical instrument, you can now borrow those from the library for free as well!
Remember that not all learning needs to look like classroom learning! Spend time with your child this summer exploring their interests and finding learning in everyday activities that are both educational and fun, and also remember to read aloud with your children, regardless of their ages.