A 2015 national study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than half of all children and adolescents in the US don’t get enough hydration – “a situation that could have significant repercussions for their physical health and their cognitive and emotional functioning.” The probable reason for the lack of hydration was not drinking enough water. Hydration is important no matter what the weather is or if you’re having a lazy day or playing hard, but it’s especially important during the summer heat.

Here are some simple tips to increase your water intake:

1. Drink water. Obviously. But also keep it in an insulated water bottle that keeps water colder longer. While I don’t like ice water, warm water on a hot day is just gross and is not going to keep you reaching for that bottle.

2. Find new ways to reinvigorate your relationship with water. Water can be boring and bland. A fun activity for you and the kids can be to “infuse” your water with new and fun flavors. Experiment until everyone finds their favorite. Place a pitcher or large Mason jar of water in the fridge and add fruits and herbs to jazz it up. Tasteofhome.com suggests flavors like strawberry and lavender. Combine 1 cup sliced strawberries and 3 fresh lavender sprigs or 1 tsp. dried culinary lavender with 2 quarts of water in a covered container in the fridge for 12-24 hours, and enjoy. Other suggested flavor combos are raspberry and lemon, rosemary and ginger, pineapple and mint, or citrus and cucumber. Really the options are endless.

Children who have not heard a lot of stories have not had as many opportunities to develop their imaginations, so introducing book “props” or accessories, as I call them, creates a bridge, from the toy dinosaur they are now holding, to the word dinosaur they are hearing. This is why I create story bags that contain a toy that matches the book. Children have much more fun with the books that have a matching toy.

I once heard a children’s librarian say, “There are no reluctant readers, only children who haven’t found the right book.” As she put it, “It’s our job to become a matchmaker.” I’ve learned that if I can find out what a child loves, I can find a book that child will love. When we provide a book that is relevant to a child’s interests they will want to hear it again and again because hearing it is fun.”

Which brings us to what many parents dread…repetition! Most parents don’t enjoy reading a story for the fifth time as much as their child loves hearing it for the fifth time. But we can turn repetition into fun by pausing periodically to let the child fill in the next word so that we are telling the story together. Once a child has memorized a story, reading that story one day will come to them much more easily.

Even if we didn’t start at birth, we still have the opportunity, at ages four, five, and six, to make reading fun. We can read or tell 100 stories before 1st grade. We can do the summer reading fun of reading books together in 100 places before fall. Both these reading programs are free at www.BookFairyPantryProject.org.

When we do these reading boosts, we are creating the conditions that will cause children to fall in love with books and make it possible for them to learn to read more easily and joyfully and love books forever.

By Jami Badershall, Communication Manager, Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council