The minute schools let out for the summer, children seem to fall into a temporary lull during which they want to do nothing but eat cereal in front of the television and go to the pool. Many kids would do this nonstop during school vacation months if we let them, which means that during the 90ish days of summer their brains start turning to mush. By the time school rolls back around in the fall, nearly everything they learned the year before has been swallowed up by video games, freeze pops and SpongeBob.

Fret not, moms and dads. There are ways, shy  of summer school, you can keep your kids brains active all vacation long. Books… lots and lots of books.

When I was a kid, my mom had strict rules about summer television watching. My brothers and I were forbidden from sitting indoors past 9 a.m., and one of her rules included at least one hour of reading every weekday. She didn’t care where we did it, as long as we did it, so I would grab a book and head out into the back yard to get lost in my imagination.

Today, most local libraries and learning centers hold regular motivational reading programs that offer kids incentives and prizes to keep reading and learning during the summer months.

Many summer reading programs are now available online, like the Johnson County Library Program in Kansas. Kids can join the program’s Good Reads page and log their summer reading activity to earn prizes like movie tickets, water park admission and upcoming new books.

As well as reading, experts encourage parents to get involved in the process. Since many families vacation in the summer months, parents can include reading material that takes place in family vacation spots so kids can really get into and relate to the book.

Not sure if your hometown has a summer reading program? Call your local library or visit their online website and search for “Summer Reading.” Then get your kids reading to keep their minds active and fresh all summer long.

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