SUMMER is here, but that shouldn't mean taking a break from learning, especially reading.
Studies show most students experience a loss of reading skills over the summer months but children who continue to read actually gain skills. Below are 10 ideas parents can use to help their children sustain reading skills, practice reading, and read for enjoyment:
1. Read aloud together with your child every day. Make it fun by reading outdoors on the front steps, the back yard, at the beach or at a park. Also, let your children read to you. For younger children, point out the relationship between words and sounds.
2. Set a good example. To help children learn good reading habits, parents should model good reading behavior for their children. Keep lots of reading material around the house. Turn off the TV, and have each person read his or her book, including mom and dad.
3. Read the same book your child is reading and discuss it. Discussing reading material helps children build critical thinking skills, develops oral language, promote vocabulary growth, and build capacity for thought and insight.
4. Let kids choose what they want to read, and do not discourage them from reading popular fiction. Although these books are not classical literature, keep in mind that this is summer, and reading should be light, fun and enjoyable. By discouraging the reading of certain genre, parents inadvertently discourage the reading habit.
5. Buy books on tape, especially for younger children. Listen to them in the car, or turn off the TV and have the family listen to them together.
6. Take your children to the library regularly. The public library sponsors summer reading clubs with easy-to-reach goals for preschool and school-age children. Check the library calendar for special summer reading activities and events. Libraries also provide age-appropriate lists for summer reading.
7. Subscribe, in your child's name, to magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids, Highlights for Children, or National Geographic World. Encourage older children to read the newspaper and news magazines. Ask them what they think about what they have read, and listen to what they say. Discuss or debate any issues you do not agree with.
8. Ease disappointment over summer separation from a favorite school friend by encouraging them to become pen pals. Present both children with postcards or envelopes that are already addressed and stamped. If both children have access to the Internet, email is another option. However, texting is not recommended since the language of texting is full of abbreviations, letter/symbol words, and improper spelling, capitalization and punctuation.
9. Make trips a way to encourage reading by reading aloud traffic signs, billboards and notices. Show your children how to read a map, and once you are on the road, let them take turns being the navigator.
10. Encourage children to keep a summer scrapbook. Fill it with souvenirs of your family's summer activities such as postcards, ticket stubs, and photos. Have your children write the captions, and read them aloud as you look at the book together.
As important as reading is, please remember that children need free time in the summer to relax, enjoy the pleasures of the season, spend time with friends, and just have fun.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 22 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.