Research shows that, over the summer, children can lose as much as ONE to THREE MONTHS of what they learned in school. This “summer reading loss” can add up across several summers, causing students to fall a year or more behind in school by the end of fifth grade. Teachers and literacy experts agree that children of all ages need to be read to, or encouraged to read by themselves, and to talk about books over the summer. Reading or listening to someone read helps to develop important language and writing skills, maintain current reading skills, increase fluency and learn new vocabulary and concepts. Most importantly, summer reading encourages children to develop a love of books and reading that will last a lifetime.
- Be a reader and writer yourself. When you spend time reading books on the beach or even directions for how to put together the grill this summer, you demonstrate for your child that reading is both fun and useful.
- Set aside a consistent time each day for reading. Whatever time you choose, stick to it, but also remember that flexibility around trips and special family events is okay.
- Read aloud to your reader. As school-aged children become better readers, parents often stop reading aloud to them. However, by reading more difficult books aloud to your reader, you help your child learn new vocabulary words, concepts, and ways of telling stories.
- Connect read-aloud choices to summer activities. Read your child books about camping, such as Webster and Arnold Go Camping, before or after a camping trip. When you read and discuss books about things your child has experienced, you help your child learn important vocabulary and extend her understanding of experiences.
- Allow your child to choose books for summer reading. While it is important for your child to complete required school reading, it is equally important to read about topics that interest your child, whether it is insects, dragons or a favorite fiction series.
- Help your child select books at a comfortable level. Listen to your child read. If your child reads smoothly, uses expression and can accurately tell you what he or she has read, the book is probably at a comfortable level. If you are having troubling judging, consult your local children’s librarian, who is likely to be an expert at matching books to readers. In addition, teach your child to use the “rule of thumb” in selecting books: if he makes five or more errors in reading a page of about 50 words, the book is too challenging.
- For younger children, look at letters and words as you enjoy summer activities. As you walk to the park, point out stop signs and letters in street signs. When you visit the local pool, point out the list of pool rules. Let your child draw and write with chalk on the sidewalk.
- Check out summer programs at your local public library. Many feature special story times, sing-alongs and puppet shows during the summer. These programs offer fun opportunities for your child to expand literacy-related skills.
- Encourage your child not to limit summer reading to books. Encourage your child to read the sports page to check up on a favorite baseball team or to read children’s magazines such as Ranger Rick, National Geographic World and New Moon.
- Read a book and watch the video together. When you finish reading and viewing, discuss the similarities and differences and talk about which version you prefer. Many books, including Stone Fox, Sarah, Plain and Tall and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, are available in movie versions.
- Take books along on outings. Pack books in your beach bag or picnic basket, and bring a stack on long car rides. You and your child can enjoy books together anywhere you go this summer.
- Encourage your child to write this summer, too. From writing postcards to friends and relatives to keeping a journal while on a trip, summer presents unique ways for your child to write about his own experiences. Have your child pack a disposable camera on vacations or day trips and help create a book about his or her experiences.