Ah summer time! What usually comes to mind when you think about summer holidays with your children? Picnics in the park? Swimming? Summer camp? Family BBQs? These are all summer staples I admit, but why not make this summer different and include sharing books part of your family’s summer fun? As a teacher and tutor for the past ten years, I know that keeping up with reading over the summer has exceptional academic benefits on young students.
Regardless of age, teachers and literacy experts agree that children need to be read to or to read by themselves on a daily basis (if possible). Spending time on books and discussing them over the summer is a great way to add more literacy to your child’s academic diet. When you read or talk to your young child about books, they develop important language skills, increase their knowledge about how stories are constructed and educate them about the world in general. Also, taking the time to read with your child can help you evaluate your child's reading skills and highlight any issues. Your child’s summer reading and book discussions will help them maintain reading skills, improve reading fluency and learn new vocabulary and concepts. Most importantly, when parents and children enjoy summer reading together, children develop a love of books and reading that lasts a lifetime!
Parents should also remember that children need free time in the summer to relax and enjoy the pleasures of childhood. So summer reading should be fun! Here are some tips and tricks to use with your family for summer reading:
- Get loud - Read aloud together with your child(ren) every day. Break up the bedtime routine as stories aren’t just for sleep! Make it fun by reading outdoors on the front steps, patio, at the beach or park. Also, let your children read to you. For younger children, point out the relationship between words and sounds as you go along
- Setting a good example - Parents must be willing to model positive reading behavior for their children. Keep lots of reading material around the house and try not to always be on your phone as kids mimic our behaviour. Turn off the TV during reading time and have each person read his or her book, including mom and dad
- Co-reading - Read the same book your child is and discuss it daily. What are the key themes? Characters? Setting? This is a great way to develop critical thinking skills and encourage creative writing
- Hit up your local library - Let kids choose what they want to read and try not to turn your nose up at popular fiction. Most libraries sponsor summer reading clubs with easy-to-reach goals for preschool and school-aged children. Check the library calendar for special summer reading activities and events as these are free! The Burlington Public Library has a list of summer reads by Canadian authors here
- Listen – Are your kids auditory learners? Buying books on tape or listening to Pod casts are a great way to engage kids, especially those with attention deficits or learning disabilities. Listen to them in the car during long trips or sit in the backyard and chill to a book on tape. Some of them are read by well loved celebrities! Fatherly.com has some top podcasts for kids here
- Stay current - Invest in some good reading apps online that encourage and develop literacy skills, for both kids and adults! Go old school and subscribe to a magazine in print or online. There are loads of children’s subscriptions including Sports Illustrated for Kids, Highlights for Children, or National Geographic World. Encourage older children to read the newspaper and current events magazines, constantly asking them questions to develop critical thinking skills. As a child myself, I used to love Chickadee magazine, still going for almost 40 years!
- Summer scrapbook/reading tracker - Encourage children to keep a summer scrapbook or reading tracker, cataloguing their summer activities and reading. Tape in souvenirs of your family's summer activities picture postcards, ticket stubs, photos. Have your children write the captions and read them and read them aloud as you look at the book together. Learning Unlimited.com has a great summer reading tracker available
Want to find out more about age-specific tips for reading? PBS.org has some great ideas by age group here. Whatever your summer plans are this year, incorporate some reading into you’re your family’s summer fun!