OC educators provide tips to keep students learning this summer

The summer months are in full swing and while children and teens can definitely benefit from rest and relaxation, there are plenty of ways for students to keep their young minds sharp.

So, in celebration of National Summer Learning Week — which takes place July 12 through 16 — we reached out to a few local educators who shared some tips to keep kids academically engaged and make the transition back to school a little easier.

Here’s what they had to say.

Go to the library or nearby bookstore

Heather Phillips, director of literacy for the Irvine Unified School District, says that reading six books during the summer may keep a reader from regressing.

Kid reading

“Take your kids to the library, ask your children what they are interested in and find books that peak their interest,” said Phillips.

Whether your child has already developed a love for reading or is still hesitant when it comes to picking out books, Phillips says there is an easy way for them to choose a just-right book on their own — it’s called the “Rule of Five.”

Here’s how it works:

Have your child open a book to the first page. Then have them read the page and hold up one finger for every word they don’t know or can’t pronounce. The number of fingers they’re holding up by the end of the page tells them if the book is the right level:

0-1 fingers: It’s too easy.
2-3 fingers: It’s just right.
4-5 fingers: It’s too hard (or best read aloud with a buddy).

Two to three fingers is the sweet spot. If they’re holding up any more or less, that’s a clue that they should try to find another book if they’re reading independently.

Work on writing and literacy

Phillips also recommended that families encourage their children to write by having them journal or send a letter to friends or family members.

“Get creative with writing and have fun with it,” Phillips said. “Spend an afternoon baking or cooking and ask your child to write down the recipe. For young children, point out what letter foods start with and have your child repeat the sounds back to you.”

Go on a field trip

There are numerous opportunities for kids to learn and experience new things over the summer months, and many are free to Orange County families.

Shirley Lee with students

Shirley Lee, teacher at Laurel Magnet School of Innovation and Career Exploration in the Brea Olinda Unified School District, says that free activities can be as simple as taking your kids on a field trip.

“Learning about something on paper is one thing while experiencing it for yourself is entirely different,” said Lee. “A field trip is a great way to bring to life what your child is learning in class.”

A few simple field trip ideas include going on a hike, visiting your local police or fire station, organizing a beach clean-up, visiting a local farm, and going to a museum.

Lee also notes that sometimes the perfect adventure is just outside your backdoor.

Get outside and explore

Speaking of the backyard, playing outside isn’t just about encouraging more physical activity in children. Studies have shown it can improve mental health and anxiety.

Holly Steele, OCDE administrator of expanded learning and Inside the Outdoors environmental education program, says you don’t have to go much further than your own backyard to explore.

“The Nature Scene Investigators (NSI) Backyard Missions, available for free on the ITO website, are a great way to spark family discussions,” Steele explained. “Families can also have children join ITO’s virtual summer camp in July and early August.”

Each week of virtual summer camp features themed daily activities that are science/nature based and also include a daily nature journal prompt, family extension activities, kindness activity, get moving activity and virtual sharing of ideas with fellow campers.

For additional tips and resources, families can visit the National Summer Learning Association website.