When parents get the school calendar each year they wonder at the number of holidays and built-in teacher training days. A first concern is often what to do about child care. Many parents also worry about whether their children are getting as much classroom time as they need. States mandate a required number of school days each year. Nonetheless, the holidays and longer vacations during winter and summer eat into valuable learning time.
Children lose some ground academically over long vacation breaks. Parents and caregivers can provide opportunities for out-of-class learning. Academic skills can be maintained and at the same time provide fun and stimulation for young minds.
Daily reading, when started during childhood, tends to bring life-long pleasure. Weekly trips to the library teach children the skills of finding books they enjoy as well as researching topics for learning. Workbooks with crossword puzzles, word searches, and mazes are available in supermarkets and big box stores. Teacher supply stores carry an exciting assortment of learning games and books.
Closer to home, the newspaper is a ready source for maintaining reading, language arts, and math skills.
Older children may be interested in reading about current events to discover what is happening in the world. Many newspapers are written at about a sixth-to-eighth grade reading level. While all words may not be known or understood, enough are that a young reader understands the story. Looking up unknown words in the dictionary increases vocabulary and encourages dictionary skills.
Many newspapers have children's sections that have cartoons, puzzles, mazes, riddles, and interesting facts. Parents, though, can make up activities for use with the paper as a whole.
Make a shopping list for your child. Ask him to find the items in the grocery ads and write down the prices. After he's found each item, he can add the amount to come up with a total cost. The same activity can be done for any items that are advertised.
In the sports section many newspapers list the scores for local sports teams in a chart. Children can look up and record the scores for teams you have delineated. They can list them in order of highest to lowest, or in alphabetical order.
Chart the weather. Children can look up the daily temperatures and record them for a week, or chart the long-range forecasts. They might enjoy charting the temperatures for a favorite family vacation spot or for a town where relatives live.
Choose two or three paragraphs from a news story and list ten or twelve words. Ask your child to look through the paragraphs and circle the words from the list.
Again, choose two or three paragraphs from a story. Circle no more than three words in each paragraph. Have your child look up each word in the dictionary and give a definition. They can use the same activity for looking up synonyms in the dictionary or a thesaurus.
Read a short, high interest story to your youngster. Have him tell you what the story was about. If his reading skills are high enough, he can read the story by himself and summarize it for you.
Ask your child to choose a topic and make a collage using words and pictures from the daily paper.
Following the format of the daily paper, make a family newspaper. Include stories about family activities and trips, gardening and craft tips, advertisements, and editorials. Young children can provide the illustrations and older ones write the stories. What children come up with can be enlightening to parents. Add your own stories and tips, pictures, and ads. Kids love parent participation. It's fun to keep these family papers and review them at a later time.
These are just a few ways a newspaper can be used to enhance learning and maintain academic skills. Use your creativity and ask the kids for ideas. Possibilities abound.