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Summer break should not include a break from reading

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open bookBy Caren Chaffee 


Summer signals warmer temperatures, more sunshine and time spent at the beach or pool. For many children, it also means summer vacation and a welcome break from school. However, a break from school should not signify a subsequent break from reading. Reading is a crucial skill that can be further honed during the summer months, when children may have some extra “free” time.


Studies repeatedly demonstrate that poor reading skills lead to poor outcomes:

  • Students who are not proficient readers by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma (The Annie E. Casey Foundation).
  • Students reading below their grade level are twice as likely to drop out of school as those who can read at or above grade level (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis).
  • Among adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency, 43 percent live in poverty. Among adults with strong literacy skills, only 4 percent live in poverty (First Book).
  • More than one third of all juvenile offenders read below a fourth-grade reading level (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis).
  • 82 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts (The Coalition for Juvenile Justice), and a very high proportion of them cannot read (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis).

There are several populations who are at greater risk to struggle with literacy skills. Specifically, studies indicate that economic circumstances play a role in reading proficiency. In fact, only 16 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch programs (based on household income) are proficient in reading. In comparison, 42 percent of students who are not eligible for a free or reduced lunch read at proficient levels (NAEP Reading 2009).  In addition, reports from all 50 states indicate that boys are less proficient readers than girls. In some states, the gap is as large as 10 percentage points (Center for Education Policy).


There are many ways to help youth become more skilled readers.  The key is increasing their exposure to reading materials and opportunities to read:

  • Libraries are a primary source of reading materials, which can be borrowed free of charge.
  • It is important for youth to witness adults reading. High-frequency reading parents are six times more likely to have high- frequency reading children (2008 Kids & Family Reading Report). 
  • Bookstores often hold age-appropriate reading programs or book club meetings.
  • Many restaurants and bookstores offer summertime incentive programs for youth and reward their reading activities with free books or meals.
  • A weekly “theme” can act as a springboard for new reading materials and topics. Not only can meals and activities be based on the selected theme, but youth can be encouraged to read books related to the theme.
  • Fun everyday activities can quickly and easily be turned into opportunities to read:
    • Museums, zoos and local parks often have signage that youth can read aloud.
    • News stories on the internet provide daily opportunities for youth to learn about current events that are of interest to them.
    • Shopping with children gives them the opportunity to read a shopping list and find the corresponding items on the shelves.
    • Cooking or baking is not only a good chance for children and caregivers to spend time together, but it provides the added benefit of reading a recipe.
    • Road trips give youth exposure to different billboards, which they can read aloud.

By making reading more accessible and more fun for youth, caregivers and other adults can play an important role in improving children’s level of reading proficiency. These acts, while seemingly small and simple, have the power to offer life-changing and life-long benefits.


Image credit: iStock photo/colematt 

Social media is changing the way teenagers communicate, structure their days

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 By Tara M. Heath 


Social Media has become part of daily routines, especially for teens. Almost all teenagers have social media accounts and 78 percent of teens have smartphones. Our world seems to revolve around social media, and most people are constantly on a phone, iPad or computer throughout the day.


Teens have created a daily routine, and most don’t even realize it. They wake up and frantically look for their phones to check their text messages or see who posted what on Instagram and Facebook. Even during school hours they find a way to get on and use their social media apps. Teens would rather text or chat via social media than talking to communicate with one another.


Take a look at this infographic provided by Teen Safe that shows a typical day in the life of an app-addicted teen.   



Life’s Journey series: The pursuit of happiness

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girl with balloonsBy Denise Morganthall 


“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – a well-known phrase in the U.S. Declaration of Independence meaning to pursue happiness as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. It is the freedom to live as one chooses, and simply to be happy. Isn’t that what we all want?


Being happy really comes down to being content with yourself and your life. You need to decide what brings you happiness then make it happen. What makes one person happy may not bring the same joy to another. But why are some people happy and others are not? It may seem like a complex puzzle, but the answer is actually quite simplistic in that we have the power to make our lives positive. Most truly happy people are optimistic and live by the Law of Attraction, which means whatever you dwell on shapes your life. So if you fill your mind with happy thoughts, you will attract happiness.


Of course it’s not practical that everyone is happy go lucky all the time. Every one of us will encounter some sort of tragedy or difficult times, even if it is only the stress of trying to accomplish all that needs to be done when there never seems to be enough time. And it is OK to feel sad or stressed because if we were happy all the time, that feeling would eventually lose its impact. As Dolly Parton said, “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.”


Researchers have found that living a balanced life that incorporates family, friends, work, personal growth, spirituality, community and health can help you achieve happiness. Happier people have actually been known to live longer, healthier lives. Sometimes it is as simple as looking for humor in trying situations or purposefully doing something that will bring you joy. We all know the importance of exercise in that it can help prevent diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, but it is also known to release endorphins that give you a feeling of euphoria.


Some people think money will buy happiness. But while it can afford you material items that might make you outwardly more comfortable, it does not impact true happiness. When lottery winners were interviewed about how their windfall affected their lives, most were no happier and many actually found themselves broke a few years later. It’s the same effect we sometimes see with celebrities who have every material possession yet still struggle to be happy. It is easy to take for granted all that we have – our families, a roof over our heads or a reliable car to drive. We forget to stop and appreciate the little things. The secret to true happiness is to listen to your heart and let your head tell you how to follow your heart’s path.


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