SPOTSWOOD/MILLTOWN, NJ - The smiles and shouts of joy will be broad and loud on the afternoon of June 17 as both the Spotswood and Milltown School Districts turn the page on another academic school year. However, while the age-old rhyme about no more books and teachers may be first and foremost on the minds of kids, studies show that the"summer slide" is a very real problem.

The "summer slide" refers to the loss of reading and math skills over the long seasonal break where most children rarely pick up a book or pencil. Numerous studies have shown that the effects are cumulative and account for lower standardized test scores for many high school freshmen. Students can loose up to three months of reading progress over break.

So, what are moms and dads to do? While summer fun and relaxation is most certainly important and beneficial, time spent reading every day actually does help keep kids' minds in shape for education.

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To help keep the "summer slide" to a minimum both the Spotswood and Milltown Public Libraries are offering Summer Reading Challenges.

Milltown Public Library's registration for their annual Summer Reading Challenge began on June 15. Participants can stop by the West Church Street library to sign up.

The Spotswood Public Library's Summer Reading Challenge runs from June 20 through August 19. To enter, kids only need to stop by the Main Street library to pick up a reading log and start reading. They are also offering weekly prizes and raffle entries for other grand prizes over the summer.

Getting kids to read when school's out for summer is not an easy task. For some parents, it can be a tremendous challenge. Here are some tips to help kids see the fun in opening a book.

  • Be a rold model. It's true. Multiple studies have proven that if moms and dads read, so will their children.
  • Head to the local library. Both the Milltown and Spotswood Public Libraries have other programs geared towards children and adults too. Make it a point to visit the library and take advantage of everything they have to offer. Another selling point about public libraries? Their programs are free.
  • Let kids pick their own titles. Think about it. For the majority of the school year, students are told what to read. Allow them to choose books that interest them.
  • Start a family book club. It may sound corny, but if the whole family is reading Harry Potter, the kids are more apt to get excited about it.
  • Head to the comic book store. Comic books are reading material too and they may have more appeal for some children.
  • Don't forget about magazines.Tweens may enjoy reading titles like "Sports Illustrated for Kids," "National Geographic Kids" and "American Girl."
  • Instead of plugging in for a family road trip, get a book on tape that everyone can listen to and there's the entertainment for the ride to the shore.
  • Pack books on vacation. They are an excellent way to pass both travel time and a long wait in a restaurant.

Even as little as reading for twenty minutes a day will help to keep the "summer slide" to a minimum. Both the Milltown and Spotswood Public Libraries are open Monday through Saturday.