Summer is winding down, and while child actors enjoy “no more pencils, no more books” as much as the next child, they’re just as vulnerable to what educators call the dreaded “summer slide.” Education, like acting, is a work in progress that is best improved by practice, practice, practice! We may be too far into the season to stop the slide, but there are things that young performers, parents, and family members can do to brush up on their education chops and get ready for the new year.
Reading is the foundation on which much of learning is built; a lack of attention to this key skill has a domino effect on all areas of study. They say children are born learners, so instilling a love for books early on is the best defense. Read to your young ones often and they’re more likely to continue on their own. Local book stores or libraries are great places to get away from it all and dive into a great story; but if you have a reluctant reader, they may also offer reading programs to inspire and encourage. Any required reading takes precedence, but other than that the sky’s the limit. Help them find a subject that sparks interest and let them run with it!
Writing gives children an outlet to express themselves creatively in a number of ways. From short stories to poetry to personal essays to plays, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) improves communication skills, sharpens senses, and boosts critical thinking. Whatever form your young actor chooses, they can easily publish their work for the world through a personal blog or web site. Parents should keep an eye on this activity, but know that when writers share their work, it’s a great way for them to learn how to handle criticism, constructive and otherwise.
Engagement, while not necessarily a skill, is becoming something of a lost art in the digital world. Technology can be an amazing educational tool, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Video games and social media have their places, but kids (and some adults) can easily get sucked into these sometimes mind-numbing timewasters, so don’t be afraid to unplug your child and place limits on screen time of any kind, including TV, computer, tablet, and phone. Those stories or shows they wrote? Encourage them to produce and perform them or turn them into movies. Whether it’s a trip to a museum, a walk in the park, or even board games on a rainy day, being unplugged will help children stay engaged and interact with the world around them, which can go a long way in their overall social development.
The Roman dramatist, Terence, is credited with saying “moderation in all things,” a sentiment that certainly applies to keeping up on academics. Parents and guardians should play a key part in supporting a child actor’s education all year round, most importantly by establishing a strong sense of balance. Rather than compartmentalizing the child’s day into school, work, and play, students should be encouraged to look at these areas as essential components to a bigger picture—a healthy life.