Summer is fast approaching, and with that, questions about how to keep your child engaged and continuing to learn. Scientific research suggests that students lose academic abilities over the summer holiday, and failing to practice literacy skills may lead to particular challenges when school starts again in the fall. If you have a child who is not yet reading, or struggles to read, you undoubtedly want to make sure he or she moves ahead this summer. Check out these ideas below!
1. Do at least 30 minutes of literacy-related activity 5 days per week.
Keeping your child engaged in a literacy-related task nearly every day can be fun! Consider a few of the following ways to incorporate reading practice into your everyday summer life:
- Read a magazine together. Summer is the perfect time to lounge in a hammock or beach chair with a magazine. Engage your young reader by finding an appealing, child-friendly magazine. National Geographic for Kids, American Girl magazine, Highlights, and Ranger Rick are great magazines with engaging articles for kids. Take turns reading sections of the magazine. Talk about the pictures and vocalize what you're thinking to your child, e.g. "I'm wondering what happens to polar bears when the ice caps melt. What do you think?" Showing your child how you think when you read will encourage your child to do the same.
- Make bedtime reading a part of your routine. Many parents would like to keep a bedtime reading routine going all school year, but sometimes the busy-ness of life gets in the way. Summer is a great time to get back to the pre-sleep literacy routine. Take time to read a high interest chapter book together. Let your child lead the way by choosing the chapter book. For children with lower reading ability, alternating who reads each page can keep both of you engaged.
- Do Fast ForWord! Summer is an ideal time for reluctant and struggling readers to work on the foundational skills that might not get adequate attention in the regular classroom during the school year. Instead of falling behind, your child can make multiple years' growth over the summer, in just 30 minutes/day.
2. Keep interest in reading activities high.
We all learn best if we are motivated by and interested in what we are reading and slow or reluctant learners are no exception. What is your child interested in? Which books does he/she like at school? It’s often just a matter of perusing library or bookstore shelves to find something that is a good fit. The Captain Underpants series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or Magic Treehouse series are fantastic books with wide appeal. And don't discount the non-fiction options -- a book of basketball facts may not seem very “literary” to you, but it is a fantastic way to get a sports-loving reluctant reader to practice sounding out new words and learning new vocabulary. Similarly, a kid who would rather be playing Minecraft might enjoy reading a Minecraft book series such as the Diary of a Wimpy Villager.
While structured reading time is important, you can also be creative about incorporating literacy into everyday life. Read food labels when shopping at the grocery store, read an article from a favorite magazine together, read signs as you drive through town, play rhyming games, leave notes under your child’s pillow, or encourage your child to decode his/her own restaurant menu. The opportunity for literacy activities are all around; just take the time to intentionally use them to boost your child’s literacy.
3. Play and imagine together.
Parents sometimes mistakenly believe that reading is the only way to improve literacy. However, at its core, literacy is about flexible use of language. Talking, storytelling, and using your imagination are great ways to build literacy.
For example, use time in the car or at dinner for storytelling. Tell a story from your childhood, describing characters and situations as vividly as you can -- have you ever been chased by a dog or found a lost dog? What were you good at in school (or not so good at)? When did you meet your best friend and what did you love to do together? What was your favorite activity as a child? When did you get in trouble and why? Turn these moments into juicy stories that encourage your child to listen and return by storytelling in kind. We all have plenty of stories to tell! This builds language and creativity, contributing to literacy (and family bonding).
This year, fight summer learning loss by engaging your child in daily activities to improve literacy. By practicing reading, language, and creative abilities, you’ll set your child on a trajectory of success when it’s time to head back to school in the fall.