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Launching a Lifelong Love of Learning

While both you and your children may welcome summer vacation with open arms, you may do so for different reasons. Your children may dream of playing unlimited video games, staying up late, and keeping a safe distance from books. You, on the other hand, may dream of a summer filled with activities to keep their academic progress from backsliding and their vocabulary free from that everdreaded phrase, “I’m bored.” In order for both sides to retain their sanity, we need to strike a balance between our children’s desire for unstructured free time and our own desire to foster their lifelong learning. Here are some tips to help your family have a fun and educational summer. (And yes, fun and educational do go together.)

  1. Read, read, and then read some more. Dr. Seuss captured the benefits children reap from reading with this quote: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Just imagine this: An average fourth grader reads about one hundred words per minute. If that fourth grader reads for just 20 minutes per day, he or she could potentially be exposed to 180,000 new words during the summer vacation. Be persistent and creative in your quest to encourage reading at home. Model reading; read aloud; enroll them in your local library’s summer reading program; or spend the long car ride to the cabin listening to an audio book instead of being plugged into handheld devices. Even my son, a self-professed “reading hater,” will read for the right reward. Every minute he spends during the day with a book is a minute he gets to stay up later in the evening.
  2. Don’t delay. We don’t need to wait until our children enter the school system to encourage them to be lifelong learners. In fact, new research suggests that reading to very small children, culminating at age 4, has a profound effect on their brain development. The study found that exposing children to books before age 4 not only accelerated brain development but helped them achieve higher scores on language comprehension tests as adolescents. Again, check out your local library. Many programs include rewards for preschoolers who are being read to at home.
  3. Fill your house with educational toys. This doesn’t necessitate a trip to Toys R Us. Refrigerator boxes, plastic bowls, and wooden spoons have inspired children’s creativity for years. Using recyclables to invent something or solve a problem doesn’t cost a penny. If you are short of ideas, brainstorm with other parents or look online for ideas on how to turn everyday household items into learning toys.
  4. Take an educational vacation. If a family vacation to the Smithsonian isn’t in the budget this summer, check out local historical sights, museums, or nature parks. Plug into your community to find a list of fun, free family outings in your area.
  5. Review your purpose. Christian parents know that the purpose for fostering lifelong learning goes far beyond implementing the newest scientific research on brain development. We want our children to grow in the love of their Savior Jesus and become lifelong learners of his Word. As we strive to encourage our children’s academic growth, may we remember to read to them not only from great works of secular literature but also from God’s great book. In light of God’s amazing grace shown us in Jesus, may we live each day with a desire to learn what new things God has in store for those who love him.

By Katie Martin, from Parents Crosslink
© 2013 Northwestern Publishing House.
All rights reserved.

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Katie Martin lives with her husband, Josh, and three children, Allison, Lucas, and Madelyn, in Spiesheim, Germany.

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