The school year ends today, May 25, in Grandview, and many students are looking forward to a summer free of homework and tests.

But Grandview Heights City School District teachers want parents to know it's important their children don't stop learning just because school's out.

Video •Sarah Hoepf and Jen Palmer help celebrate students who competed in the Genre Challenge.

Runners may find it difficult to meet their distance goals after a lazy beach vacation; similarly, students who don't work out their brains during the summer are likely to regress.

"The summer slide is real," said Jamie Lusher, the district's chief academic officer. "Regression does happen, but it can be prevented.

"Your brain is like any other muscle," she said. "If you stop using it for any length of time, it gets weaker."

Summer learning loss is particularly acute when it comes to reading, said Eileen McNeil, youth services manager at the Grandview Heights Public Library.

"All the research shows that if kids don't read during the summer, they can lose one to three months of reading skills," McNeil said.

Over the course of four summers, that can add up to nearly the equivalent of a year's worth of reading development, she said.

When students return to school in August, "you can tell if a student has not been reading over the summer," said Jen Palmer, a language arts teacher at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School.

Teachers at all grade levels must spend part of the beginning of each school year helping students who have regressed, Lusher said.

Making it fun

Keeping students engaged in reading is one of the goals of the library's summer reading program, McNeil said.

"We try to come up with ways that make reading fun and something they want to do over the summer," she said.

The summer reading club for children kicks off Saturday, May 27, and runs through Aug. 5.

Students will be able to set their own reading goals for the summer and earn prizes for reaching their benchmarks, McNeil said.

It's the second year the library has not set goals students need to reach to earn prizes.

"Kids are so different in their ability and desire to read," McNeil said. "The whole point is to encourage them to keep reading at a pace that fits them."

Reading-club participants set personal daily or weekly goals and fill out a reading log each week.

Each time a child reaches his or her reading goal, they are able to choose a prize or book from the library's treasure chest.

Youngsters who attend a program or complete a weekly challenge activity at the library will be entered into a grand-prize drawing at the end of the summer, with prizes that include a ticket package for four to Kings Island, McNeil said.

More than 500 students participated in last year's summer reading club, she said.

Mom, Dad can help

Parents can be proactive in keeping their children reading over the summer, Lusher said.

"Making reading a part of your daily routine is a good way to encourage your kids to be involved in books," she said. "Make trips to the library a regular part of your summer; spend time every day reading to your child or having them read to you. Start a family reading club."

It's important to allow children to make their own choices about what they want to read, Lusher said.

"It's summer. It's a time when you're supposed to relax," she said. "You don't want to make summer reading seem too much like school, so let them choose reading that is fun for them."

Fourth-graders at Edison/Larson successfully completed this year's Genre Challenge with a record showing, Palmer said.

Throughout the school year, students could earn badges by reading books in a variety of genres.

Each fourth-grader was challenged to read at least 40 books over the year.

"We were blown away by the results," Palmer said. "Every student met the challenge and many of them read many more books than they were required."

All told, the 85 fourth-graders read 4,444 books, or an average of about 52 books per student.

"We're hoping this will have a carryover effect and they will stay excited about reading right through the summer and beyond," Palmer said. "The library's summer reading club will help keep that momentum going."

Most encouraging to the fourth-grade teachers was that most students found they enjoyed reading books in a genre they didn't expect to like, she said.

Camps and expos

Many local resources are available to engage children's minds as well as their bodies during the summer, Lusher said.

The district held its second Summer Enrichment Expo in March. More than 20 community organizations and businesses participated, offering information about the summertime programs and activities they sponsor.

The fliers provided by each vendor are available on the community resources page at the school district's website, ghcsd.org.

The school district will host Camp Invention from June 12-16 at Edison/Larson in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Students will be able to explore science, math and technology through various activities that relate to this year's theme of "Launch."

The cost is $225 and parents can register their children at campinvention.org or by calling 800-968-4332.

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