Summer is coming soon. Is your kid behind in reading skills? This includes both fluency and comprehension. Sometimes a child struggles with both; sometimes they just struggle with one. To me, it’s most important that they comprehend what they read, but fluency is key also. If a child struggles to read, they won’t want to read, and they won’t attempt to understand what they read. It’s quite the cycle. But summer months are a great time to make reading fun for kids.
Why? You aren’t tied to any set curriculum. You and your child can decide what you want to read, how quickly or slowly you want to read, and which comprehension activities you might enjoy after reading a book. During the summer, reading doesn’t have to be a chore. Explore lots of fun options, and you’ll be surprised at how even the most reluctant reader will perk up when they’re free to read as they wish.
I love to read and explore related activities with my son. Here are some things we’ve done to make it fun. See if some of these ideas might work for you, or brainstorm your own ideas and share them with me.
Note: I use affiliate links in this post to show you the products I’m talking about. Should you choose to make a purchase using one of the links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Organize a Simple Book Club for Kids
This can be very flexible and easy to do. Pick a book that several of your friends’ kids (and hopefully the moms too) might want to read. Then gather after you’ve read it, and have a fun discussion. Do as many or as few of these book clubs in a summer as you like. I write more about this idea here.
Read a Book and Do a Related Activity
You might be surprised at how many local venues fit the theme of favorite books. My oldest son and I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (affiliate link) several years ago. Then we watched the old and new DVDs based on the books. (Sorry, Johnny Depp, but we liked the Gene Wilder classic better.) Then we visited a nearby chocolate factory. They gave us a tour, and we loved sampling their delicious products. So fun! We’ve also read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (affiliate link) and enjoyed a spaghetti dinner after. Of course, you could watch the movie too. Brainstorm activity/book ideas with your kids, and you’ll come up with a summer full of fun.
Research a Topic
Research a topic and visit a location to learn more. Once, when my oldest was little, he spotted a cannon in an I Spy (affiliate link) book. He wanted to know what it was and was confused by the tiny image shown. I tried to explain it to him, but I could see I wasn’t making sense. So we visited the Capitol grounds where they had a cannon on display. His face lit up! Now he could see and understand what I was talking about! Every community has many options for researching history, science, or almost any topic. Have an aquarium nearby? Read books about sharks (affiliate link) and go see them live. You get the idea.
Read about a Place and Visit
Read about a place you’re going to visit or would love to visit. Find information online or at the library. Browse bookstores for possible books. Spend a few days searching for ideas. Then have your children report on what they find. If you are visiting, let them help you plan the itinerary. If you’re staying home, see if you can find DVDs to watch about the location and make food that’s local to the area. Know someone who used to live there? Invite them over to teach you about it.
Introduce Different Genres
Help your kids find a poem, for instance. They won’t be able to resist Shel Silverstein. Or check out our favorite silly-dilly book of poems. Each is written to a favorite tune. Have fun singing along and laughing at the silly lyrics. Next, you might try a biography or autobiography, historical, historical fiction, mystery, religion, short stories, plays–whatever you think they might like. The goal is to introduce them to a variety of reading and writing styles.
Install word game apps or spelling games on your computer. I highly recommend spellingcity.com. We used to use it free through our school. It’s available for $35 per year for up to five kids. I really liked the variety of games it offers. It’s also customizable. I used to enter my son’s spelling lists, and the games would personalize to those specific words. Other favorite words games are Quiddler, Bananagrams, and Boggle Jr.
Use Online Resources
There are so many options available. Don’t feel overwhelmed, but pick the best. Education.com is a great resource I’ve used. There are lots of things available for free, and you can select by grade what you are looking for. If you just use it occasionally, the free option is fine. When my oldest was in grade school, I subscribed through the summer months to supplement education at home.
Youtube has some cute video clips about learning phonemes and other rules of reading. For instance, I have shown Super E and Silent E video clips to my students because so many of them get confused about whether to say the “e” at the end of a word.
Involve Kinesthetic Learning
Find spelling activities that keep your kid moving while they learn. Have them write spelling words on the sidewalk with chalk. Draw a hopscotch game. In each square, write a site word. Then show your child how to play the game. Each time they jump to a square, they have the say the site word(s). Bounce a ball back on forth with a partner or against a wall. With each bounce, spell a letter in a word your child is learning. I share even more ideas for interactive summer reading practice in this post.
Summertime doesn’t have to be all work and no play when it comes to developing and enhancing reading skills. Make it fun! Use the time to interact together as parent and child. Take your child’s reading to a whole new level as you explore together and do what’s right for both of you.
Go to the public library or search online for educational songs about phonics, etc. Play these songs over and over on road trips. Yes, it will drive you crazy, but when your child has mastered the basics, you’ll be glad you did it.
Use the Public Library
Sign up for summer reading programs. Many libraries offer great prizes for kids who record their reading minutes and turn in reading logs. Be sure to visit storytimes and special activities. Also, see if your library offers specialized programs for extra reading help. Our previous library in Idaho had a Tales to Tails program where children could read to dogs–in the library! Of course, the program was a huge success.
Read to a Family Pet or Stuffed Animal
Children who may be too self-conscious to read to a family member might relish the opportunity to read to a pet or stuffed animal. They’re nonjudgmental and will love what you’re reading no matter what.
These are the letter sounds and combinations that make up words. I have a set of inexpensive illustrated phoneme cards that I bought online for less than $3. Students need to know at a glance that “sh” makes the “shhh” sound, “tion” is “shun,” etc. Help young readers master these basics. I normally don’t like to use flashcards too much during the summer, but this is one area where it’s really helpful. Just make a game of it. Hide and seek: they have to find the right phoneme card that matches the sound you say. Or without looking, put a card (front facing the child) to your forehead. They have to tell you the phoneme’s sound and you write it on paper. They check to see if you’re right; make occasional mistakes so they can correct you. Switch places for variety. After a while, practice a few drills to help your child recognize their phonemes quickly so they don’t have to sound them out each time. If your child is still learning letter sounds, master those before adding phonemes. Offer rewards for meeting certain timed goals.
Help your child read the cereal box, the newspaper, a comic book. Use those spare moments at a restaurant while you’re waiting for food. The menu is perfect practice material. The signs at the zoo and everywhere else? Yes, and point out any specific words that you’ve been practicing. Your child will be thrilled to see them in a real-life application.
Read and Skype
A friend of mine calls her granddaughter often to read with her over Skype. I could do cartwheels!!! Yay for grandmas who do this! Moms and dads read to kids all the time, but it is extra special when Grandma makes the effort. Of course, Facetime works well for long-distance reading, too. Summer is a great time for long-distance nighttime stories since there’s no school the next and often less rush at bedtime.
Let the Child Teach
Let them be the teacher. Have them quiz you on a list of spelling words while they hold the answers in their hands. They will be delighted when you “accidentally” misspell something. Discuss together what the words mean and use them correctly in a sentence. Of course, this trick works well during the school year too, but some kids won’t want to play teacher when they’ve just been at school all day. So summer can be a great time for this fun exercise.
Does your child hesitate to read? What do you do for motivation? Please share your ideas in the comments. We’d love to learn from you.