For many students, the end of the school year represents a time for celebration. Girls and boys toss their backpacks aside, throw on their bathing suits, and jump right into recreation and exploration. Thoughts of school and reading often shift to the sidelines. Yet according to research, during the summer, students can lose up to two to three months of reading skills. At the start of the school year, many teachers spend a month or longer reviewing previously taught reading concepts. Rather than watching your child follow this all-too-common path of academic regression, encourage reading enrichment with the activities described below.
Vacations: Your child might associate vacations with packing suitcases and engaging in outdoor activities. Yet he can help plan and organize your summer vacation while practicing key reading skills. To start, have him research various travel destinations online. He can surf websites for popular spots such as Disney World, Yellowstone National Park, Myrtle Beach, or Mount Rushmore, for instance. He can also take notes on the information he reads (a good time to tie in mini-lessons on shorthand and note taking!), then create a written chart detailing the pros and cons of each destination. Once you have selected a vacation spot, order guidebooks for him to read, along with reviews online about the top attractions at your destination. When you are on your vacation, he can collect brochures and plan your daily activities. Also encourage him to read billboards along the highway, signs at amusement parks, and menus at local restaurants.
Rewards: Tie in some incentives to make reading over the summer an even more appealing endeavor. Come up with a list of rewards for reading books (paper or electronic) and set point values for each one. Make sure your child is involved in the process of selecting rewards she truly wants to earn. Together, for instance, you might decide that an electronic game is worth 30 points, a pool float is worth 25, and a trip to the movies is worth 20. Then establish point values for various books. A thin book may be worth 5 points, a thicker one 10, and so on. She can “exchange” her points for prizes at the end of each week or at a pre-determined time. Just make sure the rewards are realistic and attainable.
Select a theme: Have your child choose a reading “theme” for the summer, and plan regular trips to the bookstore or library to select theme-based books. For example, your child might choose to read about sports, cooking, artists, or animals during the summer. Have him read books on this topic and also engage in other theme-based activities. If he chooses animals, for instance, he might find books at the library on bees, birds, and crocodiles; browse articles on the National Geographic website; or even build a bird’s nest or hunt for bugs outside (and perhaps write a report on his observations and findings).
Watch movies: Find a set of books for your child to read over the summer that have corresponding movies available to watch. Have your child read the book first, and then watch the movie. Be sure to tie in prediction, plot, and other comprehension questions before and after the book and movie. For instance, before he starts reading the book have him predict what he thinks it will be about along with any information he might already know about the topic. As he reads the book, ask him to tell you (and even write) the plot summary, a description of each character, and reasons why he did or did not like the book. After he watches the movie, have him compare it to the book and perhaps even create a Venn diagram on a large white board or sheet of paper comparing them. Initiate a discussion with him on protagonists, antagonists, conflicts, climax, and conclusions. These activities will build reading and auditory comprehension skills, and will help make him a more active reader.
Technology: Reading paper books isn’t the only option for practicing key skills over the summer. Electronic books and games on tablets and computers serve as great tools for reinforcing reading. Your child will enjoy age and level-appropriate interactive reading games and books, while actively engaging in the learning process. For example, MarbleMinds Phonics and Montessori Crosswords are great apps for helping younger students practice phonics skills. Question Builder is a useful app for comprehension and reasoning skills, and Reading Eggs Sight Words is an engaging app for sight word practice. Additionally, Reading Rainbow and FarFaria offer book reading subscription services containing large libraries of books, and Starfall.com is an interactive website for practicing decoding and fluency.
Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home and on-site instruction for students in grades preK-12 in NYC and NJ. She is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a study skills workbooks series emphasizing test taking, note taking, reading comprehension, writing, and summarizing strategies, and the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series. These workbooks are currently used at schools nationwide. To learn more about Emily Levy and EBL Coaching, visit eblcoaching.com!