Summer and the Kids

DSC_0011 Multiple studies show that lower-income kids have a decline in IQ and overall skills during the summertime, while middle-class kids either stay the same or slightly increase their skills.

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes,

American children drop in I.Q. each summer vacation — because they aren’t in school or exercising their brains. This is less true of middle-class students whose parents drag them off to summer
classes or make them read books. But poor kids fall two months behind
in reading level each summer break, and that accounts for much of the
difference in learning trajectory between rich and poor students.

He then lists his favorite kid books and tells people to turn off the TV and have book time. This column has been on the top of the NYT chart all week, and it broke the bank with comments.

What are your favorite books for kids?

I also think it's really important to take your kids places during the summer. It doesn't have to be an expensive, theme-park sort of places. Just get them out of the house to smell fresh air and try new experiences. Take them around to do chores with you, so they learn how to shop for food and how a home functions (the laundry fairies don't wash their socks.) Take them to the Farmer's market and let them pick out the tomatoes. Take them to Starbucks with a book. Better yet, walk to Starbucks and chat on the way. Put time limits on TV and video games. Explain how they come up with batting averages, and it's an instant math lesson.

Books are good, but talking and walking and trying new things is also what summer is about.


13 thoughts on “Summer and the Kids

  1. We got a dog last week, and we spend a lot of time now walking her. It’s great. I’m exhausted by all the extra exercise, but otherwise it’s great. 🙂


  2. We are having a great time with bike rides this summer. Chicago is insanely bike-friendly, what with its total flatness and an abundant supply of bike trails. The kids particularly love any ride that involves a stop for a paleta (Mexican home-made ice cream, available at every park here).


  3. My wife and I get almost as excited about summer as the kids do and I think it’s because we enjoy the opportunities for ‘alternative learning’. My oldest is kept pretty busy with required summer reading from her high school and now AP Western Civ…but we still try to give them some new experiences.
    One thing I have done for years is to require my kids read one book I select for them each summer. I try to keep them relatively short and fun, but these are the classics from my chilhood. Tom Sawyer, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Gentle Ben, Summer of the Monkeys. Sometimes they are a hit, somtimes they aren’t, but at least they know what books helped shape me into a lifelong reader.


  4. My latest favorite kids’ book is my 7 y.o.’s discover – the “Catwings” series by Ursula LeGuin. I had no idea she had written early chapter books, and these books are wonderful.
    Our new activity is fishing. It’s cheap, it gets us out in different parks (lakes and rivers), it has moments of excitement. So far we’re just doing bluegill catch & release, but we’re heading to the local trout farm to catch dinner this weekend. 🙂


  5. I love this post; you’ve made me feel like a good mom! My kids are 11 and almost 8. Right now the 11 year old is reading the Charlie Bones series and re-reading the Percy Jackson series. The 8 year old and I are reading The Secrets of the Inmortal Nicholas Flamel. Both are action-packed, lots of fun and led the girls to become very interested in mythology. They have very different taste in books than I did as a kid. Since they’re not reading the books I loved, I’m making a point of reading at least some of their books, which is introducing me to some fantastic new children’s literature.


  6. Personally, I think this “Best Kids Books” lists are silly. The Raggirls all have completely different tastes, and we pick books that appeal to those tastes, not some hypothetical “best book.”
    Eldest Raggirl loves the literary-ish stuff, and she’s been plowing though Roald Dahl books and some of the shorter Newbery winners, like From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
    Medium Raggirl is a complete genre SF/Fantasy geek, and has been reading “The Secrets of Droon” series non-stop for months, even since she finished the “Franny K. Stein” and “Captain Underpants” books.
    Youngest Raggirl can’t read to herself yet, but is loving anything Frog & Toad or my Maurice Sendak.
    Also, all three love Archie Comics.


  7. I second the Archie comics, my kids love them. Also Calvin and Hobbes and even Far Side compilations crack them up.
    The oldest (17) is reading The Odyssey for an AP class. Upside? She’s writing a paper on “O Brother Where Art Thou.”
    The youngest (7) is reading Hoot. Bert is reading some Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater to him and the 11 y.o. before bed.
    The 11 y.o. is reading some trashy series by Scott Westerfield. Kind of combo of science fiction/chick lit.
    The 15 y.o. is reading TeenVogue and novels I don’t likely want to know about.


  8. Hmm. Chasing my two year old around the National Zoo as she insists on pushing her own stroller (which she can’t see over) into other zoo patrons?
    Leaving the stroller in an out of the way place to get some sort of peace, only to have it “borrowed” by another zoo patron who “was going to return it, I promise.” (I kid you not.)
    Quality parenting indeed, nervous tension abound. (Single parenting day.)
    Although we did have a good time and she obviously loved it. “What’s that?” “Lion” “What does the lion say?” “Roar.” Definitely worth it.


  9. I believe that the furries use ‘yiff’ instead of hijinks. I think the furries have been coming here for three years now. I’m guessing that a good report from the furries is how we got the G-20 meeting, because I’m sure the overlap between those two groups is huge.


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