By: Catherine Shea, FUSE Reading Teacher
The beginning of summer is an exciting time! It feels like it is full of possibilities and opportunities. We can use this time to build and expand our children’s innate curiosity and excitement about learning. Tapping into fun, authentic learning experiences can also solve the problem of “summer backslide” and keep parents and students from feeling overwhelmed or behind when school begins again.
Read. It sounds so simple, but I know it can be a challenge. Everyone knows how important reading is, but getting kids to read during the summer can feel like a herculean effort. Below are some ideas to help.
- Book Club! Start a book club with your child. This is an amazing experience. (As a reading teacher, I am lucky enough to have it each day!) Your child will love talking to you about the book you read together. Mix it up. Read out loud to each other sometimes and sometimes read alone silently. You will learn so much about how your child thinks and how you think.
- Look for a favorite! Librarians spend a lot of time studying books. Ask them to help find books that match your child’s interests. Pinterest is also full of book lists that can help. Here are a few ideas:
- Kids love a series.
- Comic books or graphic novels are great for reluctant or struggling readers.
- Kids love a book that has been made into a movie. Read the book, then watch the movie and discuss the differences. What did the movie get right or wrong?
- Strategy guides for video games are great ways to get video game fans to begin reading more.
- Kids love historical fiction!
- Look up lyrics to songs and sing them.
- Don’t try to force kids to read what you think they should read. There are many things to read and comprehend in the world. Encourage them to read about things they are interested in and let them tell you what they learn.
- Incentives! Kids love prizes. It is amazing what they will do for a little recognition. (Again, as a reading teacher I speak from experience.) Plan something fun to do after your child finishes a book. Kids will do a lot of reading for a small reward.
- Drama! One of the most exciting parts of the year in our reading class is when we read and act out plays. Everyone is engaged. It is so much fun to create costumes and act out a play. Have some friends over and create a production.
- Be a tourist! Learn about the local history of the places you visit during summer break. Have your child do some research, read the guidebooks, and help you plan parts of your vacation. Each summer, my family visited Nags Head, NC, where we would see a play about the Lost Colony. After the play, we would read everything we could about that time and debate theories about what happened to those people. The play energized me to read, research, and discuss. If you are having a “staycation” this summer, be a tourist in your own town. Kids love to learn about local history. It helps them feel connected to and excited about the place they live.
- Plant a garden! You don’t need to dig up the yard! Your garden could be a couple of planters with your child’s choice of veggies in them. Encourage your child to research recipes and plan meals to cook when the veggies are ready. This will encourage him or her to read, plan, and measure!
- Create a game! At my house we call this “Calvinball” in honor of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. In the comics, Calvin often creates a haphazard game full of activity and creativity. Have the kids create a game with rules and equipment that gets everyone moving. Then, have the kids teach you the game. Strategize and problem solve about the rules when snags come up. As Calvin said, “The only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can never play it the same way twice.”
Write. After you read all these wonderful books, take exciting trips, and create a fabulous dramatic production, encourage your child to write about it all. I know. This is another thing that sounds easy but is incredibly hard. Here are ways to make writing fun.
- Journals! Have your children write a couple of sentences about what they do each day during the summer. Letting them pick out a new journal to write in doesn’t hurt. Each week, read the journal together and talk about the things you did that week. (There is no need to check grammar or spelling. Just make it a fun bonding experience.)
- Blog! Edublog.org is a safe blogging site for kids to publish their ideas, gaming strategies, book reviews, and summer experiences. If you use a regular blogging site like WordPress, you can make the blog private, so that only family members can look at it. Encourage grandparents and other family members to comment on the blog. This makes the experience interactive and exciting!
- Create! Encourage your child to create art and crafts that include poetry and stories. Have readings and art shows to celebrate your child’s creativity. The Kitchen Table Classroom is a great blog to get ideas on how to incorporate reading and writing in arts and crafts projects. There are wonderful, printable templates to help you get started.
The most important thing we can do during the summer is model how we as parents are lifelong learners. Encourage your child to ask questions, research, and find answers. Look for answers with them, and let them teach you something new. It is also important not to fill every moment with an activity. Let them get bored and use their imaginations to create their own screen-free fun.