Last summer, I wrote a Raising Summer Readers blog series with many posts throughout July and August about making reading part of kids’ everyday summer lives. Along with regular reading aloud, encouraging our kids to read over the summer is one of the most significant ways we can promote our kids’ reading achievement, overall academic achievement, and their development into lifelong readers and learners. This summer, I had planned to write a again with a different twist, but sadly my life doesn’t have room in it right now for much blogging (beyond Ethan’s Leukemia blog). At some point I’ll return again to my reading blog. For now, I’m re-posting my first post from last summer’s series for readers who never saw it and are interested. At the top right of each post in the series, there is a link to the subsequent post so that readers can easily access all of the tips. June is done and summer is well on its way — if your kids haven’t been reading, take a look at some of the information in this series and try to choose a few ideas that work for your family. And remember, reading aloud to your kids, as well as all kinds of texts (including audio books, e-books, picture books, magazines, museum guides, and comic books), “counts” as beneficial summer reading. So helping your child create a summer that includes reading should be do-able even for kids who are not competent or avid readers.
Below is last summer’s first post. As you’ll see, in our family we have enjoyed documenting our reading in ways that are fun for the kids (as opposed to traditional reading logs). Two years ago, we made a “family summer reading tree” (see below). Last year, we had fun with Summer Reading Timelines (also shown below; see post #54 for the end-of-summer version). This summer, my kids each wanted their own trees (we have a “lego tree”, a “technology tree”, and a “tennis ball tree”, with the “leaves” on each tree representing books and pages read). Dad has clouds with raindrops for each book, and I have a sun with rays (as you can see, I need to get going!).
(Originally posted 6/22/2014)
Around the U.S., most of our kids are now out of school for the summer, and those who are not are just one week away. As we eagerly embrace a break from homework, schedules, and early mornings, please remember that time away from the classroom should not mean a break from reading! Children who do not read over the summer lose 2-3 months of reading development, compared to children who do read and tend to gain about a month or more of reading proficiency. This difference creates a 3-4 month gap every year, which results in a cumulative gap of several years or more. Which is huge! Further, summer is the best opportunity to help your child develop the reading habits of lifelong readers. As your children ease into summer, try to disconnect “reading” from “schoolwork”, especially if they are strongly linked in your family. Emphasize the many bigger-than-school reasons to read, such as for pleasure, to relax, to learn, and to connect to worlds beyond your own. Lead by example, and show your child from the start of summer that reading (and writing and learning) is a regular part of daily summer life!
Last summer, I wrote a summer reading series (see “Summer Slide” posts), which included 13 suggestions for helping our kids create a summer reading life. This summer, I am aiming to write a “tip-a-day” to help give parents ideas for encouraging reading over the summer. Some tips may repeat those from last summer, though the intent is to have many new ideas and recommendations. Except for this first one, I plan to write super brief tips (just a few sentences) that parents can read quickly and implement the ones they like. I hope you find some helpful ideas in here! Here goes…
Raising Summer Readers: Tip #1
Help your children develop a summer reading plan.
As close to the start of summer as possible, help your child develop a summer reading plan. Whether your child is a preschooler who “reads” pictures or a proficient independent reader, he/she will benefit most from a plan that includes one, two, or all three of these components: (A) a specific summer reading goal to strive towards, (B) a method for documenting summer reading, and (C) a method for written response to books/reading experiences. Having an agreed-up system in place from the start of summer makes reading an expected and even integral part of summer, rather than a difficult-to-fit in after-thought. Kids are also more likely to read if they have a say in what their reading life looks like, so discuss options together and let them create a plan that is exciting to them. Listed below are some ideas for each of the above components of a summer reading plan:
(A) Possible summer reading goals include:
- Read every day of summer
- Finish a book a day for every day of summer (“Books” may be anything from chapter books, picture books, comic books, magazines, poetry anthologies, audiobooks). Click here to read expert reading teacher Donalyn Miller’s post about her Book-a-Day challenge.
- Read 20 minutes for every day of summer (approximately 1200 total minutes)
- Read every book in a particular series
- Read X number of chapter books on the Newbery Medal winners list
- Read every picture book on the Caldecott Metal winners list
- Read every book that can be found by a particular author
- Read in 50 different locations this summer
- Read and watch as many book/movie pairs as possible
- Attempt to get through a large pile of must-read books
- Make a list of “top topics” to investigate and then read as many nonfiction and fiction books on each topic that you can.
- Help your child choose another goal that is personal and exciting to him/her!
(B) Possible methods for documenting summer reading include:
- Use a traditional reading log that tracks number of minutes, number of pages, or titles completed. Established summer reading programs (e.g., through Scholastic, Barnes & Noble, or a public library) often provide these logs, or you can help your child create his/her own.
- Use a minute tracker app, which is exciting for kids who like to use technology (e.g., Scholastic has an app called Scholastic Reading Timer)
- Dedicate a wall or a door in your house as a “Summer Reading Door”, and add photographs of covers of books read as they are completed.
- Create a Summer Reading Timeline that shows off the chronology of the child’s summer reading, with dates, book titles, and even book covers or ratings.
- Create a “summer reading tree” with leaves added for each book read, or an “ocean of summer reading” with fish added for each book, or a “sizzling hot summer of reading” mural with suns added for each book read. For families, 1 mural with color-coded items (e.g., leaves, fish, suns) works great!
- Brainstorm a “Summer Reading Bucket List”, with book titles/topics/ reading experiences that kids check off and date as each item is completed. Examples of bucket list items include: read in a tent, write to an author, read at the beach, read a book that makes you laugh, read a chapter book aloud as a family, visit a library in another city, read a comic book, have an outdoor read-aloud party, etc.
- Create a summer reading photo album, with photos that show off books as they are read, places where reading occurs, and “action shots” of summer reading.
- Help your child create his/her own method for documenting reading during the summer. Have fun with it, and be as creative as you/your child wants!
(C) Possible methods for written response to summer reading include:
- Using the Summer Reading Bucket List (above), add written reflections for each item with details about the book/reading experience.
- Using the Summer Reading Timeline (above), add mini summaries or reviews/recommendations/insights for each entry.
- Start a summer reading journal with reflections on the books read and reading-related experiences over the summer. For example, the child might journal about specific books as they are read or write “recommendations of the week” for each week of summer.
- Find a reading buddy (could be a parent, sibling, or friend) and write back and forth about books read.
- Start a book club with friends and journal about the club’s reading experiences and group discussion.
- Start a family “book versus movie comparison chart”, where the family watches as many book/movie pairs as possible and analyzes similarities/differences. It can be fun to include ratings for each pair that evaluate whether the book or movie was better. A helpful rule is to require the reading to happen before the movie!
- Link reading with art by keeping a “reading sketchbook”, with drawings/paintings of summer reading that visually represent a response to each book through art, perhaps with titles/captions.
- Write (and possibly illustrate) additional pages, chapters, or sequels to a handful of favorite summer reads.
- Review/recommend books online — this coupling of technology and written response might be appealing for some kids. A fantastic website for this is www.dogobooks.com, a free online book (and movie) reviewing community for kids by kids. Kids book can look up other kid-written reviews, rate and review books, earn badges and points for reviews written, and follow other book reviewers. The site even includes a built-in incentive program for reviewing books over the summer!
- Also for tech lovers — help your child author his/her own reading blog, with posts that include books recommendations or reviews. Check out www.kidsblogclub.com which is an online community of kid bloggers (especially bloggers about books) and has some good tips about starting a child-authored blog.
- Create a scrapbook that shows off varied written responses to books read and reading experiences, such as letters to authors; book reviews; drawings/paintings inspired by a book; and reflections on book-experience connections such as museum trips, book/movie comparisons, book-inspired crafts and cooking , and book-related outings.
While regular/substantial reading over the summer is super helpful in and of itself, written response to reading boosts cognitive engagement with the text, comprehension, learning of world knowledge, and writing skills. If you can, join in on the reading goals your child has set. It can be extra fun if the entire family co-constructs a summer reading plan together, pursuing the same reading goals and documentation method!
In Our Family… Last summer, we made a family “summer reading tree”, where we all added leaves with titles for each book they read. While we didn’t set a specific goal, we all read a ton and were proud of this full tree at the end of summer:
This year, inspired by Donalyn Miller’s Book-a-Day challenge, we agreed on a family goal to each read (finish!) a book for each of our 74 days of summer. To document our reading, we are creating a Summer Reading Timeline, with duct tape timelines for each family member and Sharpie date marks on each timeline for each day of summer. For my child who is entering kindergarten and just starting to sound out words, his reading for the timeline includes “pretend reading” of picture books, the reading of wordless picture books, and our co-reading of beginning reading books and easy picture books. For Mom and Dad, our reading aloud to the kids counts as daily reading. The kids seem to love our shared reading plans! Here’s a picture of our timelines as we start the summer:
For the written response component, last summer my daughter started a blog and wrote in it frequently. While she still adds to it intermittently, her enthusiasm for it has faded (I think largely because the technical difficulty of blogging limits her independence with it). This summer, she and her brother (finishing 2nd and 1st grade, respectively) have discovered DOGO Books and are super excited to use that as the vehicle for their written response to books. They are avid readers already, but the interactive environment is drawing them into a community of kids who rate and review books together. The downside is they are fighting over the computer for the first time in their lives…over who gets to write a book review…can’t really complain!
My little one (entering kinder) has chosen to keep a “Summer Reading Journal” to write about his summer reading. His journal will include mostly drawings in response to books, with writing about books in the form of dictation and phonetic spelling. Here’s his simple cover to his journal:
What fun or unique plans does your family/child have for summer reading? Send me a photo at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll share it on this blog!
Click here for the next post in this series, Raising Summer Readers Tip #2.