Summer Literacy: 7 Fun, Free, Easy & Semi-Hidden Ways to Keep Your Kids Reading All Summer...Don't Put Reading on Summer Break, Too!

There is no doubt that a teacher's worst fear is that the students he/she worked so hard to bring up to grade level all year long, will slide back a reading level or more, over summer break.  The research is high and wide that this can easily occur when READING is not...

... on a parent's summer radar.  I don't know why it is, but I can see how it happens...many parents are busy, work, or just plain unaware of the importance of daily reading. In this blog post, I'd like to share with parents, 7, easy, free, and semi-hidden ways you can keep your children actually reading and writing over the summer WITHOUT a designated and forced, parent-mandated reading time.  *Attention Parents* when you do this (forced reading), kids see reading as a chore and there are negative connotations that don't shine reading in the brightest light possible. So this post is about fun, sneaky ways to keep your child reading and they won't even realize they're doing it.  And, reading, like anything else, only happens naturally and occurs every day, when done naturally and every day, like a habit.  And habits are a perfect example of fluency, habits of mind and living are things we do and *think* without thinking...cognitive fluency. So let's begin.

During the summer, especially, make it a habit to go to the public library once a week. Find a day in your schedule that is not too busy because you will not want it to be a rush-rush trip. Allow at least two hours in your schedule to let your children browse for books...many teachers call it "shopping for books."  Your child's teacher has taught them to peruse books, look at the cover, read the blurb on the back and browse through books to decide if it looks interesting before committing to check it out.  Allow your child to choose as many books as they want, and definitely, without question, let them self-select the books they want to read over the next week.  This is probably the most important element of this habit. Again, research is high and wide that students who self-select their own books, read more and grow as readers faster and with more self-motivated eagerness than children who are given texts to read, where the book is selected by an adult, or where children are told what to read.  

You will also want to go to the library prepared to walk out with lots of books.  This is a great mindset to teach your children.  To do this, take reusable bags into the library with you, and use it as your library bag all summer. Return books in it and check books out with it. Week after week. And regular visits to the library will become a regular habit. 

Like the movie, Field of Dreams."if you build it, they will come" so is true for books....If books are there, kids will read them.  So why not capitalize on every opportunity?  Think about all the places kids are sure to be this summer and keep a bag or basket of books there.  Here are places kids are guaranteed to be this summer--in the bathroom.  They gotta go! Some kids are quick in the bathroom and some kids are not, so keep a basket of books near the toilet, within arms reach so they can easily grab them without falling off the toilet.  Kids are also sure to be in the car--going here and there, thanks to you. So keep a basket or bag of books in the car.  Also, when you keep books in the car, they can also be read while kids wait for other their heat in a swim meet.  Summer, at least in North Carolina, is swim team season. Every, and I  mean every (ok, nearly all), subdivision in Raleigh has a swim team, which inevitably means a lot of waiting around.  Again, if books are there, kids will read them.  (Printable at the end of this post.)

(Photo courtesy of @lacypark on Instagram)

I know the television is a beast to manage (if you have one). I actually have found with my own children that they watch less television screen and more computer/phone/pad screen, than years ago.  BUT, in the summer, when many many kids are at home without fun camps, vacations or outings to attend, many children watch (too much) television over the summer instead of reading books. So, one way we can capitalize on the television watching, whether it's a 30 or 60 minute show or Netflix, turn on the closed captioning on your screen. Our family has found that when it's on, we notice that our eyes drift to the words the actors are saying and find ourselves reading along.  Kids will naturally do the same IF the words are there to read, so just turn it on and leave it on.

So, kids are all too familiar with YouTube, which can be both positive and negative. I personally think it's great that kids default to YouTube when wanting to learn how to do something new...some adults could learn this default.  In the YouTube search bar, enter "karaoke songs with lyrics" and see the many songs with lyrics for kids to read and sing along.  For a more refined search, add the word "children's songs" or "nursery rhymes" into your search.  Timothy Rasinski, fluency guru, says singing is one of the best ways to increase fluency because songs get "stuck in our head and we can't get them out" so that in itself, he says, is a form or repeated reading due to repeated head singing.

There are some fascinating Instagram accounts by some amazing photo journalists who travel around the world and document or explain fun and interesting things happening around the world. And, there are some amazing attractions, zoos, state parks and organizations that work really hard to document daily happening for everyone to enjoy on Instagram.  It's fun to read the posts of these interesting Instagrammers and use social media to do it.  Kids read about the picture post and don't even realize they're reading.  This activity is great for kids at home this summer, or kids in summer school...what a hit the Instagram Center would be!  I would also encourage kids to write captions to pictures that have very brief captions...what picture details would *they* include?  

I recommend the following Instagram accounts for kids to follow:

(Click on the color image for a free download of both color and b/w versions.)

Summer is the perfect time of year to read informational text and environmental print.  In life, this is the text that is most useful to living and functioning in society as a productive, healthy, informed citizen.  Be a role model by actively stopping to to read all the signs you see or point them out to your kids so they can try to read and understand them too.  If you make any trips or vacations this summer, make it a game to find everywhere that print and text is used to teach or tell information, and then figure out together, what they say, the message and why the sign or text is important for people to know. 

(Photos courtesy of W. Warner & J. Marshall)

There is indisputable evidence of the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing...and should always taught, practiced and done hand in hand.  For example, you might remember in my January 2015 blog post, I talked about the importance of teaching students how to also *write* sight words when teaching them how to read sight words.  And, so the same is true for practicing writing, when learning to read. The cognitive process of reading is called decoding and the cognitive process of writing is called encoding.  Kids not only need to know how to say the sound symbol for a letter (reading), but must also be able to retrieve and produce the letter symbol for the sound they are trying to make (writing).  This summer, ask your kids to write a Summer Bucket List.  In fact, everyone in the family should create a Summer Bucket List and then have a family meeting to create an opportunity for everyone to share their lists with the family. Then, work together to make a plan to accomplish activities on the list. If kids have trouble coming up with ideas, they can look through magazines to get Bucket List ideas. 

(Photo courtesy of B. Midtgaard Fletcher)

Sometimes ordinary things become extraordinary when we do them outside. Something about the outside environment, nature, fresh air, ions, not exactly sure what, but some indoor things are just more fun outside.  So, have a book picnic outside for some "natural" reading or a book picnic inside, when it's too hot outside.  Take a blanket and some snacks, spread out and enjoy some books on a blanket. 

(Photo courtesy of @snippetsbysarah on Instagram)

(Photo Courtesy of @alikscott17 on Instagram)

If you live in the Raleigh area, find out more about Book Babies, a free program offered by Book Harvest to connect new moms with free books..."kindergarten readiness starts at birth." 

And, below is a printable refrigerator summary version of this blog post for parents and/or summer school teachers. 
IMHO, summer reading is going to be the key to closing the reading achievement gap in America.  Teachers work way too hard all year long to let 80% of it go down the drain over summer. Like reading guru, Timothy Rasinski says, "parents are vital in their child's reading success." That's just how I feel. 


Beach ball dividers made by me.  Right-click-permission to copy them.



Anonymous said...

Love this! It will go in my summer packet next year. Thank you!!!

Tammy DeShaw said...

I like this list a lot and actually started to think about how I could implement it into my classroom. How fun would it be to create a bucket list at the beginning of the year of things we want to learn/try during third grade, or sing along to a youtube video with closed caption on, a reading picnic outside (even in winter- why not?!). I also love how you always incorporate technology! Great post!!

Laura said...

Fabulous idea to recommend Instagram to students for summer reading!!! I shared your post with my last year's students will totally eat that up!!!

Lori said...

Love your list, Jen! Great, practical ideas to sneak in reading without making reading time a chore!
Conversations in Literacy

Organic Literacy said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing your ideas. Love your summer bucket list!

Stephanie said...

I have already added the Instagram links to my son's accounts. Thank you!

Dewan Makhan Maur said...

Noble ideas.

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