Austin Aspires: An important time to talk with children

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Jayne Gibson

Executive Director Austin Aspires

Although weather forecasts may indicate otherwise, our calendar tells us that summer is coming – and the 2018-2019 school year is almost done! This time of year generates numerous emotions for children and families alike.

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It is an important time for parents to talk to their children, and really learn how they are feeling. It is also a time to be intentional about summer calendars.

Studies show that students and parents must be deliberate about how they spend the summer months to avoid the “summer slide”. “Summer learning loss equals at least one month of instruction” according to research completed by Harris Cooper. Low income students suffer a steeper rate of loss than their peers according to several studies.

The good news is families and communities, working with school districts, can make a positive difference in learning, and minimize or avoid the summer loss. Summer school is a good option offered to some students. Summer school however is not the only option.

Talk to your child and learn more about their interests. What do they want to invest their time in this summer? Is there something they have been wanting to learn more about, and haven’t yet? Summer may be the perfect time to do this!

Did you know that the Hormel Nature Center offers summer learning opportunities for students? What about the STEM Camp that is being offered at Riverland Community College for high school students? The Salvation Army offers a summer day camp program, and the many of the fitness studios in our community have options specifically designed for youth during the summer! You can learn more about some of these incredible opportunities in the Youth Activities Catalog that can be found on our website ( Available activities vary in costs, starting at free, and some have scholarships available. Contact the organizations directly to learn more.

Summer is also the perfect time to engage in family activities.  What about implementing a DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time as a daily family activity?

Everyone in the family spends time reading, regardless of where they are! This can happen at home, at the park, at the lake, it doesn’t matter – and it doesn’t have to cost money. Just be sure every family member has a book with them at all times!

Mayo Clinic Health System is encouraging everyone to “slim your screen time” this summer. They have suggested 130 activities that you can do, many free, as an alternative to being in front of a screen. Engaging in conversation as you build something, go for a walk, go somewhere you have never been, or volunteer, are all things that will help minimize summer loss while promoting healthy relationships and habits. Learn more about this opportunity on their web site at

Use this summer to continue to strengthen your family relationships. Take advantage of the many opportunities offered throughout our community as ways for your child to continue to develop and grow. Implement family activities in your schedules that provide additional time together at little or no cost.

And know that when your child heads back to school in the fall, the slides that they experienced this summer were at the park or at the pool, not in their learning.