Kids reading at Catoosa Library with cat

Kids reading together helps with academic and social skills; these children were also reading to a cat at a Catoosa County Library event a few years ago.

Catoosa County Public Schools Superintendent Charles Nix said in a recent interview that children have suffered serious setbacks both academically and socially from two years of pandemic effects.

Parents and grandparents are in a special position to help children regain lost ground and summer is a great time to do it. Here are some ideas drawn from local educators, parents and others.

Nix, in his interview, recommended three books he thought every child should read. They differ widely on reading level, but most children will enjoy them in one way or another.

“The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss. Read it to children, let them read it to you, take turns reading parts aloud. Older kids can read it to younger kids. This book is so fun, it’s a great repeat. Aim to do it better every time.

“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. This children’s classic is a delightful story and a good read-aloud. Help younger children to master reading segments out loud. Older children and teens can hone reading skills by reading it aloud to younger kids — or even the family pets. After the book, watch the 2006 movie version of it or one of the animated versions and discuss the differences.

“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is a great book for middle and high schoolers to get lost in — adventure, danger, humor, scary creatures, battles, it’s all there. Before Harry Potter, there was this book, which leads to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — more excellent reading for children.

All this leads to thousands of other good books, which leads to the many good libraries in Catoosa and Walker counties where they can be found in print and as audiobooks.

Speaking of libraries — what amazing places! You can go every week, every day, stay as long as you like, and it’s all free. You can meet others at the library. Think kids’ book clubs (start one yourself) or coloring clubs.

Libraries all have summer reading programs for kids, as well as story hours and many special activities. Google your county or city and the word library.

Start a kids’ club for your kids and their friends or siblings and cousins. What better way to improve communications and social skills.

Kids can put on skits, listen to books on tape, read to each other, do art projects and all sorts of other things.

Turn off the TV and devices. Fun as they may be, teachers agree that they deaden imagination, reduce academic achievement and quash social skills. Many studies say they contribute to depression, isolation, bullying and worse.

Get out into the community. Take the kiddos to parks, playgrounds, museums and other attractions.

Don’t forget math. The opportunities are endless, from using workbooks that can be found in many retail stores to having kids work out real-life math problems (if the pool holds 150 gallons, how many quarts does it hold, double or halve recipes, make a budget).

Board games. This is a great way to cover academic skills and social skills.

Invite someone interesting over to share about their experiences. Encourage the kids to ask them questions.

Help kids write and illustrate homemade books.

The possibilities are endless. All that’re needed are dedicated grownups.

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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