Summer Fun—Ways to Stay Engaged During the Summer Months

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 Active.

  1. 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.
  2. 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! 
  1. 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.

  1. 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.)
  2. Blog! 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!
  3. 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.

Libraries–Visit One Today

By: Dana Procter, Librarian

Let me be completely honest with you. I have always loved to read. I remember the experience of going to the library as a young child. I was able to check out as many books as I could safely carry. The excitement of taking them home to read was like a trip to Disney World. Books introduced me to people I would not get to meet and took me places I would never get to see. Books piqued my curiosity and just made me want to read and learn more.

When I had children of my own, I had the opportunity to share my love of reading with them. We visited to the library, checked out books, and read them at home. As a classroom teacher I loved sharing my classroom library with my students. Watching the students select books and read them was pure joy to me. I have had the most wonderful opportunity for several years of being our school’s librarian. I am surrounded by books and can share all of them with students. It is a delight to help a student find  “just the right book” or a book about a particular topic.

Even though I have a passion for reading and books, I think some students have forgotten about the library. Our library is the hub of our school and has so much to offer students. There are choices of books such as early readers for beginning readers, picture books, young adult novels, graphic novels, biographies, and nonfiction books, to name a few. When you walk into the library, there are so many resources at your fingertips.

I want to help you find the book that will take you to a new place or a book that can teach you a new skill. So come with me to the library instead of googling your subject or reading a book on your Kindle. Let’s start as you enter the library, orient yourself. Look around at what is in the library. Most libraries are arranged in a similar pattern. But all can hold a special place for you, if you let it.  Browse the various books available, take time to sit and read in a comfortable spot, or study and research at a table.  Take time to stop in and quietly discuss a topic, subject or school project with a friend or group.  The library is a welcoming place for all our students to come to.

If you haven’t been to the library in a while, you will notice that our library has changed. Libraries all over the world are changing and are embracing the changes as well. Many new things are going to be happening in our library. Even if you don’t love to read as much as I do, come visit our library or a library near you. You may be surprised at what the library has to offer and you may want to take a book or two home with you.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

By: Cindy Williams, Third Grade Teacher, Reading Specialist

We all remember some of our very first picture books that were read to us at an early age. One of my favorite books from my childhood is, Are You My Mother? By P. D. Eastman. Following the little bird on the journey to find his mother was captivating and the line drawings depicting the story demanded my attention.

Do we abandon the joy of reading picture books too early in our children’s lives? Could they help our children develop a love for reading?  Are picture books a beneficial tool for students in the middle and upper school grades to promote a deeper understanding of complex ideas?

There is research that suggests we are pushing some of our elementary students into chapter books before they are ready. Picture books have language that is often more sophisticated than some of the first chapter books that children read. Children can enhance their vocabulary, imagery,  and  increase their comprehension of the text by reading illustrated books. Those who read illustrated stories may be more motivated to develop stronger reading skills faster than when a child is only reading chapter books. Picture books are more interesting and exciting to children. The pictures add a better understanding of the action and a better sense of the plot. Even before children begin to read, the picture books allow them to decode the meaning of words as they listen to the story. Picture books appeal to children’s curiosity and sense of wonder, motivating them to read independently.

When students are encouraged to read text-only stories or chapter books prematurely, we may be limiting their joy of reading and slowing their growth as independent readers.

A ”text only” story cannot use the rich vocabulary choices that illustrated stories use due to the fact that some students are still developing their basic vocabulary.

Many middle, upper school, and even college instructors have recognized the importance of using picture books in their lessons. Reading a picture book does more than any other literary format for connecting people with one another.  If you have a difficult idea to express, a picture book is the perfect place to start. The Butterfly, by Patricia Polacco demonstrates the hardships endured during Word War II and Goin’Someplace Special, by Patricia C. McKissack gives a glimpse of bigotry in the 1950’s. Both are difficult topics to discuss, but are easily approached through these picture books.

The Caldecott Medal, awarded each year for outstanding children’s book illustrations, “defines the picture book audience as birth to age 14” (Fingerson & Killeen 32). Many topics tackled by picture book authors are more appropriate for middle school students and are created with the adolescent reader in mind. Their topics are sophisticated, inviting in-depth discussion. Issues that are important and very real to young adolescents—homelessness, crime, environmental problems (Beane 1993)—are easily explored through picture books. The mature content of these books, written specifically for middle school readers, lends itself to opportunities for thoughtful analysis and critical thinking.

It seems that  picture books are worth a thousand words and offer a positive reading experience for everyone.

Begin Your Journey.