Make reading with your child a priority over the summer months. Regular read-alouds or solo reading time throughout the summer months is extremely important. These sessions may be the only times your child will read, or be exposed to reading, this summer. Take special note that the stakes are extraordinarily high! It is clear that children who read over the summer months maintain skills, and it’s just as clear that children who do not read over the summer months slide backwards. A nonreader who is reading on grade level at the end of the school year can slide back as much as three months’ worth of gains. CLiF’s Executive Director, Duncan McDougall, shared his tips to prevent “summer slide” reading loss in this month’s Parent Express.
Here are some fun suggestions to help keep the focus on learning to read this summer. The most surprising part for all involved? Your child may not even know you are slipping a little education into summertime adventures.
Most of the activities are pretty simple. Some take just a few minutes; some could take a little longer. Some could involve just one other person, and others could involve the entire family. Try to complete the activities at the same time every day. For the nighttime activities, perhaps talk about them, set them up, gather all of the materials needed – around the same time every day – and then do the activity at a set later time. Pick and choose the activities that work best. Consider repeating or substituting special favorites.
The end of the summer may necessitate some sort of transition back to school. Those days, particularly those cloudy and rainy days, could be best spent by devoting time to back-to-school activities. Those include: getting back into school-time sleeping habits, setting up a quiet place to work, organizing bookshelves, purchasing and organizing materials, and collecting and sorting clothes.
While the goals of summer activities may be to maintain reading skills as well as to keep the positive attitude about reading and learning to read, other benefits may be to bring reading to the forefront of family activities. You may become surprised at how important reading, and learning to read, becomes to your child and your family. Enjoy these activities, show a genuine interest, repeat all favorites, laugh as much as possible, and have a wonderful summer!
Make a summer calendar with your child. List special things you want to do.
Take your child to your local library and sign up for the summer reading program. If you don’t have library cards yet, now’s the perfect time to sign up!
Have a summer birthday, BBQ, or other celebration coming up? Hand-write the party invitations, including both words and pictures.
Here’s a little something for 26 days. Read a book today with an author’s last name that begins with the letter A, tomorrow with the letter B, the next day with the letter C, and so on. (You could also do this with book titles.)
Play Tic-Tac-Toe with letters or words. Younger children can use letters other than X and O, like b and d. Older children can use summer or other themed words.
Choose a letter at random (Perhaps pull from a hat or close your eyes and point to a letter on a page). Ask your child to find items around the house that begin with that letter sound. Challenge older children to write more words than you that begin with that letter.
See how many places in your home, other than in books, where your child can find words to read. If you travel this summer, encourage your child to find words along the way (on road signs, bumper stickers, advertisements, etc.).
Visit the library today. Find an alphabet book that is more than just “A is for Apple.” Hint: Look for children’s author Jerry Pallotta, who is also known as The Alphabet Man.
Play the Memory game. Use pictures, letters, letter sounds, sight words or high frequency words, vocabulary words, or even a traditional deck of playing cards. National Geographic Kids has some fun online versions, too.
Does your local newspaper have a special children’s page? (If not, many magazines, like Highlights, do – you can usually find them at your local library.) Show your child, read it, and complete the activities.
Ask each person to share a Mother Goose rhyme at lunch or another time you’re all together. Practice the rhymes first, and then read a few times.
Help your child make puppets using paper bags, old socks, or sticks – just about anything works! Put on a show using the puppets to tell stories.
Challenge your child to learn a new word today. Use it at least 3 times. Use some of the more unique words again tomorrow.
Visit a used bookstore or a pop-up booksale. Let your child buy a cheap selection or two. Treat yourself to something special, too.
Read under the stars. Take a blanket and book outside, and read by flashlight.
Sing the alphabet song one time each hour throughout the day. Stop other activities for a moment and simply sing. Experiment with singing the song to different tunes.
Set up a scavenger hunt. Leave notes around the house leading to other notes. The final note leads to something special.
Visit the library. Check out a fiction book. Check out one book to read together and one to read independently. For pre-readers, independent reading could mean simply looking at pictures. For other readers, independent reading means reading alone.
Have a No TV Night. Read, tell stories, maybe present some arts and crafts activities, or play a few games instead. If this is a successful night, consider a second No TV Night and invite friends.
Start with letter magnets on the refrigerator today. Older children can start with word magnets. Spell some known names or simple words. Create some sentences about the summer.
Write your child’s name in a vertical column. Use each letter to begin a new line in a poem.
Have a family campfire outside and tell stories. Or gather together inside around a large bowl of popcorn (or other favorite snack) and tell stories.
Pick a random letter out of a bag or hat. Find who can name the most things that begin with that letter sound. Repeat with other letters. Hint: Think person, place, or thing.
Encourage your child to start a new hobby. Check out the library for information about the hobby.
Make a model together. Remember to read the directions together first.
Bake fortune cookies today. Write short messages on small pieces of paper and bake into the cookies.
Turn your child into a pet detective. Observe an animal closely, and then describe the animal with as many details and adjectives as possible (This could involve a quick ‘field trip’ to the park, the farm down the road, etc.)
Plan a book swap party. Every child arrives with one book to donate and leaves with another book to read.
Choose a famous person or historical figure. First, go to the library and find out about this person. Second, do a computer search to learn more.
Switch it up today. If you have a busy summer and don’t have time to read at night, then read in the early morning. If you usually read in the morning, then read sometime in the afternoon.
Ask your child to design a book cover for a favorite book. Be sure to be complete. Another related activity is an advertisement poster for the favorite book. Persuade others to read it.
Stuck in traffic or waiting in line? Make up a quick story using the characters, actions, and settings you see.
Play word games such as Boggle Jr., Scrabble Jr., or Word Yatzee today. Set up a family tournament. (This time of year you can find a lot of games at yard sales, church or school take sales, etc.)
Visit the public library. Check out some nonfiction books. Consider a variety of books on similar topics and compare. Take as many as you can carry. Discuss the topics after you read them.
Choose a word, write it down, cut it out, rearrange the letters in alphabetical order, and then recreate the word. Older children can choose a sentence, cut out the words, shuffle the words, and recreate the sentence. Still older children can choose a paragraph, cut out the sentences, shuffle the sentences, and recreate the paragraph.
Find a simple science experiment to do with your child today (This site has some fun suggestions). Read the instructions together and complete together. If you can’t find an experiment that works for you, try a new recipe for something tasty.
Cut out a story from the newspaper or a magazine (you can usually find lots of free papers and magazines at the grocery store). Have your child read it and create a headline. Compare it to the original.
Can you name an animal that starts with every letter of the alphabet? The letter x can be in the middle or at the end of the word. Or, to get started, here are 3 animals with names that start with the letter x: xerus, xantis, and xenurine (look them up!).
Write messages in mirror image. You can write a message for your child, and your child can try to write a message for you. Hold them up to a mirror and read.
A rebus is a story that replaces some of the words with pictures. Make a simple rebus with your child. Older children can create more challenging stories.
Play a game of I Spy. For example: For ball, start with “I spy something red” or “round” or “beginning with the /b/ sound.” Give additional clues after each guess.
Start a jigsaw puzzle. Offer age-appropriate puzzles or make your own – Cut up a summer picture, mix the pieces, and put them back together.
Visit a favorite children’s author’s website. Read about the author (many children’s author’s sites have fun activities to accompany their books – check them out!).
Everybody takes a joke to dinner. Practice first. No jokes? Do some research and find something funny.
Lie on the grass and look at the clouds. Make up stories about the shapes.
Do a crossword puzzle with your child (you can find them in newspapers, online, or in special crossword books).
Buy a sports magazine for reluctant and struggling readers (or pick one up at the library). Not into sports? Try hobbies or something else your child enjoys.
Bake cookies with your child. Ask your child to read the instructions. Double the recipe. Ask your child to do the additional math.
Visit the library today. Ask the children’s librarian about the most popular books for the summer (many libraries will have lists posted). Check out those books.
Play the Trip Game. Start with: “I am taking a trip with a cat. What else can I take along that rhymes with cat?” or “I am taking a trip with a dog. What else can I take along that begins with same sound as dog?”
Make alphabet soup. Print names on paper, cut out the letters, put into a pot (without water or it won’t go well!), stir, pull letters from the pot one at a time, and try to spell names.
Buy something with words on it. Encourage younger children to talk about the letters. Encourage older children to talk about the message. (As you shop, you can ask your child to help you find what you’re looking for by reading signs.)
Let your pre-reader pretend to read to you today. Observe closely. You may be surprised at what you see. Let your older child read to you today too. Sit back and appreciate the moment.
Purchase something from a cereal box or similar offer. Make sure your child completes all of the contact work.
Watch something on PBS or the science channel or the history channel (Netflix has the BBC’s Earth Series all about nature! If you don’t have a TV, you can find a lot of nature documentaries online.) Talk about it. Do some research for more information.
Create a list of words that relate to summer. Play Memory, Go Fish, or Old Maid with the words.
Rainy day? Have an indoor camp-out. Make a tent from a blanket. Read stories and eat s’mores.
Play a board game today. Let your child read all of the cards. Help out when needed.
Play a basketball game of Horse. Use other animal names or summer words for a second round. No hoops? Play catch. Spell words when catching.
Find online computer/mobile games that everyone in the family can play. Be sure to read all of the directions first.
Ask the librarian for a book of tongue twisters. Practice one or two to share with others.
Write menus for dinner. Add candles. Make like an in-home restaurant.
Have a reading contest with older children. See who can read the longest without taking a break.
Play Dominoes. Make your own set with pictures, letters, or words.
Taking a trip? Play the alphabet sign game. Find signs that contain the letters of the alphabet. Start with the letter A and go in order.
Spend the day asking only open-ended questions that begin with “why” or “how.” This may be hard to do at first, but with some practice, it is possible.
Visit the library today. Choose a nonfiction, science fiction, or fantasy story. Read, relax, and enjoy.
Each person finds a poem to read before dinner (the library can be a great place to find new poems). Practice reading out loud beforehand. Already writing poems? Then bring an original poem to read.
Ask an older sibling to read to a younger sibling. No siblings? Grab a cousin, a neighbor, or a friend. Still no luck? Sometimes reading to a pet will work out. Be patient if they don’t sit for the whole story.
Write a secret message in lemon juice, and ask your child to hold it over a light bulb to read. Or help your child invent a secret code for messages. Then leave notes for each other.
Label sheets of paper for members of the family. Draw a picture for each. Include as many details as possible.
Make a shopping list with your child today. Add a special treat. Ask your child to help out at the store by reading labels.
Research time capsules today. Make one with your child. Consider putting a copy of this list of activities inside. Put it away for a summer or two. Follow through with these activities again next year.
Start the day with Post-It notes in the bathroom. Write something for every member of the family.
Play a board game with your child today. Request that your child do all of the reading. Played so many board games that you are bored? Then make your own game. Take the best parts from the games you have played, and put them together in a new game.
Make connections. Talk about how this summer is similar to last summer. Also talk about how this summer is different than last summer. Start a little talk about next summer.
End the summer with a family field trip. Remember to talk about what you see. Also remember to give your child a chance to talk and share ideas. Remember that some children need additional time to think and process before answering.
Repeat your favorite summer activities, or for more adventure and excitement, create your own activities. We’d love to hear what your favorites are!
Bruce Johnson is an educator, reading specialist at the Merrimack Valley School District in New Hampshire, member of CLiF’s Advisory Board, and author of Helping Your Child Become a Successful Reader: A Guide for Parents. Learn more at www.guidesforparents.wordpress.com.