Quick hits of news and fresh ideas for busy parents.



Beat the brain drain

The summer brain drain is coming to a child near you.

Studies show that most students lose a substantial amount of knowledge during the summer months. Children living in poverty or those struggling with reading may lose up to two months' worth of reading skills.

The good news is that parents can combat the summer shortfall by encouraging kids to read.

Studies suggest that children who read as few as six books over the summer maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year. Children who read more than that may make modest gains.

The Columbus MetropolitanLibrary's summer reading program is a great way to motivate kids to keep reading once school's out. The library offers prizes to kids who meet their reading goals and has a calendar full of programs intended to get kids excited about books.

To learn more about the program, visit summerreadingclub.com. Sign up starts on June 4.

-Melissa Kossler Dutton

At play

I've espoused the benefits of game play, pointed out how we can let our kids set the rules for play and offered some good suggestions for encouraging your kids to play outside in the last few months, but at the core of all these activities the goal has always been one that is center to my goals - to encourage parents to connect with their kids before it's too late.

Recently I had an epiphany. My oldest daughter and I don't really talk anymore. She's in high school now and going through so many of the social and emotional stresses of being a young adult, and I'm just the authority figure who reminds her to do better in school or to finish her chores. I dangle rewards in front of her like a Friday evening at The Chiller or a willingness to let her get a driver's license next year, but the "fun" has gone out of our interactions.

This realization has me adding a few activities to rebuild that relationship. Right now we're unlikely to be friends - in fact it's counter to my job as her father most days - but I need to work with her to keep our interactions friendly. I want to enjoy time with the wonderful young woman she is becoming, but not through Facebook, email or the occasional call home to borrow money.

I hear her express the same need, a longing for a connection through this difficult time of her life, so I've set up a regular "date" with her. Creepy as that might seem, it's that one time I set aside to focus on her, to play with her and to enjoy her company without having to be the authority. We've identified things she enjoys - like watching me play games or playing games together, and we're using that opportunity to strengthen a bond eroded by the lives we're both living.

The key takeaway, I hope, is that in the end I'm making memories for her. She won't be a constant in my daily life forever, and when that time comes I'd rather she remember those hours we spent playing and not the arguments we endure as she becomes an adult. Playing games isn't always about enriching our current relationships with our kids. It's also about ensuring the foundations of one in the future.

-Shawn Sines