Summer is a great time to nurture your child’s reading skills in easy, engaging ways that will both increase reading achievement and be fun. Teachers know that how children spend their summer will impact, for better or worse, how those children will do in school when they return in the fall. Research shows that students can lose up to 3 months of reading achievement if reading activities are ignored during the summer.
This does not mean you should plan a summer of skill and drill exercises for your child. Rather, start the summer with talks about what your child really likes to do, learn, and read. Don’t presume you know what your child likes! Then share what you like to do, learn, and read. Children are surprised to learn that parents have special interests too.
Now you’re all set to plan a summer of creative fun based on your child’s particular interests. Research tells us that self-selection of books matched to a child’s interests is an important motivator. We also know that connecting experiences, vocabulary, and books together is a powerful recipe for reading improvement. Your challenge for the summer: to keep your child’s curiosity alive and to keep your child reading.
Here are ten tips to keep your child reading and creatively engaged in learning throughout the summer:
1. Make regular and frequent trips to the public library. This is still the best deal in town—free books to borrow, fun summer activities for children, and a reward-based summer reading program matched to your child’s reading level. Don’t underestimate the value of the public library.
2. Download a free Parent Activity Kit from www.barnesandnoble.com/summerreading/.
The Barnes & Noble summer reading program provides a free book after your child reads eight books and writes a brief recommendation of each book in a reading journal. This is a great activity as it combines reading and writing. Writing about a book helps develop reading comprehension skills.
3. Provide something new for your child to experience each day. Maybe the experience is simply a walk in the park turning over leaves to find a new bug or hunting for a special rock. It might be catching lightning bugs at night or playing a new card came together as a family. Each new experience stores important brain information that gets unlocked when reading about a similar experience. Children with many stored learning experiences have an easier time learning vocabulary and have higher reading scores.
4. Find books or reading materials to match shared experiences. If you made a trip to the beach, head to the library and look for some beach books. If you made a trip to a museum, bring home a souvenir museum book. If you found a great new rock, look up some information about rocks online. This will provide extending information for your child to learn more from the experience.
5. Have a cooking day each week. Have your child take out a few children’s cookbooks from the library. Help your child write (or draw!) a grocery list with the items needed for the recipe-of-the-week. Head to the store and work together to find the ingredients on his/her list. When you do the cooking, have your child read the recipe out loud as he/she follows it.
6. Make a Summer Word Wall in your child’s room….or the family kitchen….or wherever it will be regularly seen. Each evening, have your child write three or four “Summer Words” from the day’s new experience. Each word can be written on an index card with an illustration. Put up a giant bulletin board or large sheet of paper and then pin or tape the new words to the background. Before bedtime, review the words and play with grouping them in fun ways. After you’ve had several experiences, you’ll have all kinds of words. Can you put all the animal words together? Place words? Feeling words? Can you find similar words?
7. Break up summer days with activities from different areas of the curriculum. Use the cooking experience to talk about how to measure things, build an exploding volcano or attend an outdoor music concert. Try different types of museums. Integrating curricular experiences in your child’s summer day-to-day world will keep the brain sharp!
8. Pick up a copy of “The Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease (Penguin Books, 2006) which gives many ideas and strategies for enhancing the joy of reading books aloud. Reading aloud to (and with) children is a wonderful shared activity even after children are independent readers.
9. Visit the interesting website, http://WeGiveBooks.org where your child can read digital books and for every book read, a free book is sent to an organization in need.
10. Invest in a V-Reader by VTech ($50), which is an animated storyteller for children. This electronic reading device has a downloadable library with free titles and provides audio and visual story animation and learning games to support reading. For older students, an e-reader like a Nook or a Kindle can be very motivating. Many libraries are now lending electronic books. Don’t underestimate the motivational value of e-readers.
Summer can be the best learning time of all as you help fill your child’s reservoir of experiences and vocabulary for a wonderful learning life ahead. It’s not just about the book…but how we help children connect their real world to their book world!
Jane M. Bailey, Ed.D. is Dean of the School of Education at Post University in Waterbury, CT. She blogs at blog.post.edu and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.