It has been anything but a "normal" school year. Something about experiencing the fallout of a global pandemic tends to throw a wrench in things. Whether you're a homeschooling pro or you were left panicking with this new reality flung into your lap, the good news is, there's plenty you can do this summer to help your kids thrive academically.

Vice president and editor-in-chief of teaching resources at Scholastic, Tara Welty offers some practical advice and helpful tips to make sure your child is ready to excel in their studies--both throughout the summer and beyond.

Even in normal situations, the National Summer Learning Association reports that many kids "lose two months of math skills and many lose additional reading skills each summer." And now, as we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation, at least in our lifetimes, it is crucially important to do all we can to prepare kids for success in their studies.

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One of the most important things you can ever do for your child is to help them build a reading routine. Not only will this help counteract their "learning loss," but this habit will serve them both in their school life, but also in their professional and even personal lives--forever. Welty suggests kids set aside even just twenty minutes a day, in a favorite spot, to read. Let them find a book they love and get lost in their imaginations for a little while. If they don't read yet, then spend time reading to them. My mom did this for me and I'm quite certain it's one of the most important things she ever did for me.

Take them to the library--even virtually. When I was a kid, reading books was an escape and an adventure. It was freely encouraged. One of my favorite things ordering books at school during those book fairs--remember those? :) Letting kids explore at a bookstore or at a library will help them be more engaged and reading will seem fun to them, rather than an assigned drudgery. Welty says research done by the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report shows 89% of kids agree.

Just like with any other skill in life, in order to maintain it, we must practice. Welty recommends practicing learned skills in a workbook. Good ones are created to be engaging and even fun, while being educational. You can find them on a range of subjects. Even as little as 10 minutes a day can be effective.

Ah, I would suggest this may be the most important advice Welty shares: "Bring learning to life." Kids, and people generally, are more likely to enjoy education and learning if they can see why it matters in their actual life. So, of course, teach them the basics in a variety of subjects. But then switch gears and do things like baking or cooking, gardening, even household chores can become a fun experience that teaches real life skills. I'd also add creative writing or music to the list.

How are you planning to keep your kids engaged in their education over the summer? How about you? When's the last time you learned something new?