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How to Weave a Little Reading and Writing into the Summer Break

Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed. | The Children’s Book Review | May 14, 2019

Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column #1: How to Avoid the “Summer Slide”

This editorial article was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed. and made possible by TCBR sponsor Carole P. Roman, the author of more than fifty-two award-winning books. Everyone can travel the world this summer with Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived In … series that introduces children to cultures around the world.

How to Avoid the “Summer Slide”

Both you and your child have likely worked very hard this school year to help improve and grow literacy skills.  As exciting as summer is for everyone, it can be a tad nerve wracking to think of losing any of the progress your child has worked so hard to make! Making sure your child continues to read and write over the summer break can make a huge difference once they return to school and it doesn’t have to require a daunting amount of work. It can be done in fun, easy, and organic ways that connect with all the summer fun you’ll be sure to have! Here are just a few tips and tricks to help parents and caregivers weave a little reading and writing into the summer break. All of these ideas can be easily adapted to any age and grade level.

Writing Tip: Start a Summer Journal

One simple way to promote literacy over the summer is to help your child start and maintain a Summer Journal—decorating the journal is optional but encouraged! And if time allows, make one for yourself, too. Modelling behavior is often a great way to get kids interested in a task without turning it into a chore. There are lots of fun ways to promote literacy through this activity, but here are just a few suggestions to get started.

What to write about?

  • Anything! A special activity, camp, adventure, something you are grateful for, a memory, trip highlight, time with friends and family, a cool bug you saw on a walk, a beautiful flower, rainstorm, and even better, the book you just can’t put down!

For every journal entry help your child to:

WRITE

Depending on their writing skills:

  • Your child can dictate to you and then add artwork to the journal entry.
  • Choose some special or important words from their entry that might be spelled incorrectly and help them to correctly spell those (we’d recommend correcting just a few words so as not to take the joy out of the process. However, choosing an important word, or a word that they use frequently, to correct is a great idea).
  • Write freely! Even if the writing is not legible, or there are spelling or grammar mistakes, this is still very beneficial for kiddos! Linking speaking with actual written/printed words is an important pre-literacy skill.
DRAW/DECORATE
  • Have your child add drawings and illustrations to their journal entries. They can color, cut out magazine clippings to glue onto their entry, decorate with stickers, anything goes! Some kids may even prefer to draw first then write about their drawing, or artwork. There is no right or wrong way to do this—just have fun!
READ
  • Encourage your child to read, explain, or share their entries with a friend, babysitter, or family member. Family dinner is a great time to encourage everyone to share their favorite recent journal entry. This is also a nice way to bond and increase family connection.
CONNECT & EXTEND
  • Did your child write about a certain place, or topic that can be researched or extended? Plan a trip to the library or bookstore, introduce yourself to the librarians (if you haven’t already) and ask for help finding more books about the topic, or on a particular question that may have arisen during the journal entry.
  • Plan a related family outing/adventure.
  • STEAM connection: Can you connect a journal entry to science, technology, engineering, art, or math?

Quality and depth is way more important here, versus the number of journal entries that end up being written. Taking time to be mindful and really dig deeply into your child’s writing (asking questions about it, discussing it) is what will help leave a lasting impression on them, in addition to maintaining those awesome literacy skills.

Reading Tips

There are many fun ways to help ensure your child reads a little each day over the summer. I will be including more ideas each month, but here are just a few to start with—the first tip is catered to younger readers and the other is applicable for all ages.

Reading Tip #1: Plan Goals & Create an Incentive Chart

Take the time to sit down with your child and make a plan together for reading and writing over the summer. Create goals together and make sure to make them visible on a bulletin board or the refrigerator. This planning meeting is truly one of the most important steps in making sure your child avoids the summer slide. We are much more likely to work towards and accomplish goals that we have taken the time to carefully plan, write down and make visible.

Some summer days will creep by slowly and others will fly by! It is okay to not read and write every single day, but it is not okay to completely forget to do so over the entire summer! In order to help motivate and excite younger kids about “growing their brains” through reading and writing, help them create and decorate an incentive chart. Use this chart to track the days or weeks when your child met their reading and/or writing goals. Come up with a number that works for you to cash in on a reward. For example, 5 stickers on the incentive chart might mean going to the bookstore or library for a new book! Or, perhaps it means getting to watch the movie version of the book your child just completed. Have fun creating a list of incentives together.

Reading Tip #2: Start a Book Club

Starting a book club is one of my absolute favorite ways to help encourage kids to read over the summer. This can easily be adapted for various ages and stages.

Starting a Book Club for Younger Readers (around ages 4-6)
  • Help your child choose a few of his/her favorite picture books, or books they would like to read.
  • Pick one for the first meeting.
  • Invite a few of his/her friends over for the book club meeting.
  • Read the book aloud. Then help the children to:
    • Share their thoughts about the book. Developing language skills is key for growing and improving literacy skills like comprehension and vocabulary. The children may lead the discussion and sharing themselves. However, if you need help getting the sharing started, here are a few sample questions:

Fiction:

      • What was your favorite part? Why?
      • Who was your favorite character? Why?
      • What did the characters learn from the book?
      • What did you learn from the book?
      • Where did the story take place?
      • What was the story mostly about?

Nonfiction:

      • What was the book mostly about?
      • What true facts did you learn?
      • What was your favorite fact? Why?
  • Write and draw about the book in a summer journal.
EXTENSION IDEAS

If you have the time to plan more activities for the book club meeting, here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage your child to plan the meeting with you—this helps motivate them even more and to feel more invested in the joy around reading and writing!
  • Choose a snack—can you link it to the book? If so, bonus points for you!
  • Plan an extension activity like an arts and crafts project that has something to do with the book. Pinterest has an incredible amount of ideas you can steal!
  • Enjoy the book club meeting? If so, coordinate with other parents to have more meetings. To help make this even easier, make it a “pot luck” book club for both snacks and arts and crafts materials.

Starting a Book Club for Chapter Book Readers

  • Have your child pick a chapter book he or she would like to read over the summer. Some schools have mandatory summer reading lists or send out suggested reading lists. You can use these lists as a guide and kids can get their summer reading done with their friends.
  • Have your child invite any friends that might be interested. A small group will likely be easier to work with, but this is up to you and your child.
  • Have a planning meeting with your child, or invite the whole group. Discuss how the group would like to work. For example, create a calendar and get a certain amount of reading done independently and then meet once a week or once a month, depending on what works best for the group.
  • Check for understanding. Have each child come to the meeting with at least one question about the text that will help them check for comprehension and understanding.
EXTENSION IDEAS
  • Parents can join the club! Reading the same book as your child has many benefits—such as the importance of modeling reading at home. Reading the same book also gives parents a shared topic for discussion and can often be the starting point for interesting conversations.
  • Book Club Jobs:For older students, have them run the show. They can give each book club member a job that they can work on while completing their assigned reading pages. They can rotate the jobs so everyone has the chance to do each job if they would like to. If younger groups would like to do this, a parent with the time to do so would have to help their child coordinate. Some examples of jobs might be:
    • Summarizer: Comes prepared with a summary of the reading.
    • Word Wizard: Comes prepared to share a word that either confused them, or that they thought was a beautiful or interesting word. Comes prepared with the meaning of the word, too.
    • Connector: Did any parts of the book remind the reader of their own life? Explain.
    • Literary Luminary: Are there any parts that made the reader react or feel a certain way? Which part? Why? Ask the group how that part made them feel.
    • Illustrator: Create their own drawings and illustrations for the book.

*These jobs can also be written in summer journals.

Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this link or subscribe to our e-newsletter so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. How to Weave a Little Reading and Writing into the Summer Break: How to Avoid the Summer Slide was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.—follow her on Instagram: @wildflower_learning_denver.

Lizzie loves literacy. And alliteration! With over a decade of classroom teaching experience, and years of one on one reading and dyslexia intervention, Lizzie understands the challenges and rewards of engaging with young readers. Her passion for helping children overcome learning difficulties to fall in love with reading led to the launch of Wildflower Learning; a private practice that serves the needs of young readers in Denver, CO. Follow @wildflower_learning_denver on Instagram for more literacy tips & tricks.

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